Wednesday 22 February 2012

Brookhill and Castlerobin


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BROOKHILL, by R. R. Belshaw.

The mansion of Brookhill was founded by Sir Fulke Conway, the original grantee of what is since known as the Hertford Estate. In 1611 the plantation commissioners report that he had "buylte another house of cadgeworks at a place called Maynergedell, with a stone bawne about it which shall be buylded 15 feet high." It is, therefore, as old as the Castle at Lisburn, which was destroyed by the great fire of 1707. It seems to have been a favourite residence of the first Lord Conway until somewhere about 1641, when it was burned by the retreating rebels, with his lordship's library and other property of considerable value. From an early period it was the chief residence of the Rawdon family, the founder of which, Sir George, a native of Rawdon, in Yorkshire, was the first agent of the estate. He had been secretary of the Conways from his youth, and was afterwards connected with them by marriage. In 1641 he raised and became major of what was then known as Conway's Troop of Horse, which was largely composed of Killultagh men, whose rendezvous was at Brookhill. The Rawdons continued to reside there until some time after the Restoration, when they removed to the County Down, having secured large grants of land about Moira and Downpatrick, &c.

In 1698 we find Brookhill in possession of of Edward Ellis, who was high sheriff of the County Antrim that year, and his widow was living there in 1725. After her, the next family was that of James Watson, of Clough, in the County Down. He was born in 1700, and came to Brookhill about 1740. He was the first of his name there, and the first in the county who used lime for agricultural purposes Whilst living at Clough he was executor of the wills of his father-in-law, the Rev. John Williamson, vicar of Magheradroll; David Blakely, of Clough; and also of his brother-in-law, the Rev. Samuel Redman, vicar of Kilmore; all in the County Down. His son, John Watson, left for India about 1747, and returned on a visit twenty years afterwards, having attained great distinction during his absence abroad. He held high rank in the Company's naval service, and was an able coadjutor of Lord Clive, whom he materially assisted in establishing the Indian Empire. In matters of principle he was superior to his colleague, of which Macaulay gives a very striking proof in his account of their dealings with one of the native princes. Admiral Watson married in London, and afterwards returned to India, where he subsequently died of wounds received in action. His father outlived him, and died in 1777, as recorded on his tomb in Magheragall Churchyard erected by his daughters, Margaret Redman and Elizabeth Boyes. His eldest son, James, born in Dublin, and afterwards the last of his name at Brookhill, was left in charge of his cousin and uncle by marriage, Captain Robert Redman, agent of Lord Moira, the old Rawdon family. The Redmans had a villa, known as Larkhill, at Ballynahinch, where they generally spent every summer. On the death of old Mr. Watson they came to reside at Brookhill, and whilst there Captain Redman built the adjoining mansion of Springfield. In the construction of it he is said to have used the stones of an old round tower that stood adjacent in the graveyard of the old church of Magheragall, which had been burned by the rebels in 1641. It was in the townland of Ballyellough, or limestone town, a site formerly held sacred in times of Paganism. On the death of Captain Redman in 1788 his widow removed to Brookhill, and resided with her nephew until her death in 1806. Springfield was next occupied by Mr. William Younghusband, who was living there in 1790. His widow, a relative of the Redmans and Watsons, afterwards removed to Lisburn, where she subsequently died.

The district surrounding Brookhill, formerly known as the seven towns, or townlands embracing nearly three thousand acres, included Ballynadolly, Ballyclough, Ballycarrickmaddy, Ballymave, Ballyellough, Kilcorig, &c. This property, which lay in Magheragall and Ballinderry, was originally in possession of Sir John Rawdon, agent and lessee of the Conway family. Afterwards it appears to have been held jointly by the first James Watson and his two sons-in-law, Robert Redman of Springfield and William Boyes of Kilcorig, until at least the death of Madam Redman, as she was then called.

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James Watson -- The Young Commodore died in 1B50. John Grubb Richardson, of Moyallon and Bessbrook, and father of James N. Richardson, Bessbrook, purchased Brookhill in 1854 from John Wakefield, the Commodore's nephew. Mr. Richardson sold the property to Sir James M'Caulay Higginson, of Indian fame, about 1859. He repurchased it later from Sir James M. Higginson, or his representatives, and rented it to his brother, Joshua Pim Richardson, who was residing there in 1866. Shortly after this date John Grubb Richardson again parted with the property to W. T. B. Lyons, who was succeeded in occupation by W. H. H. Lyons, Robert Horner, and Robert Graham. Mr. Horner purchased the house and lands of Brookhill, about 303 acres, for £3,000, and was in occupation some 16 years, when he sold the estate early in 1918 to Mr. Graham for £12,000.

Captain Robert Redman built the old house at Springfield, and died in 1788. It was next occupied by William Younghusband, who was living there in 1790. Mr. Wakefield, a brother-in-law of James Watson's, would appear to have been the next occupier; followed by Major Haughton, from whom Joseph Richardson purchased it in 1857, and about the year 1861 built the new house.

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by R. R. Belshaw.

From "Lisburn Standard," July 22, 1882.

One of the chief fortresses of the O'Neills was at Innisloghlin, and it was said to be the most important in the North from its commanding the celebrated Pass of Killultagh. It was sometimes called the Pass of Kilwarlin, near Hillsborough. The Lord-Deputy Sussex, in his journey through Ulster in 1556, speaks of "the great Pass of Killultagh, as being the space of two miles in length, through which he, with Sir Henry Sidney and Sir William Fitzwilliam, with the rest of the army, marched on foot, all in armour."

In 1515 it was recommended that the race of Hugh Boy O'Neill or the Clannaboy should be expelled out of all the lands from Greencastle to the Bann, and that they "be assigned and suffered to have their habitation and dwelling in the great forest Keylulltagh, and the Pheux (Fews), which habitation and place they have often had before now by compulsion." In 1586 Sir Henry Bajenall, in his description of Ulster, says "Killultoe is a very fast country, full of wood and bogg, bordering on Lough Neagh and Clanbrassel," and that there was one Cormac O'Neill, son of Niall O'Neill, who had yielded to the Queen, and was able to make twenty horsemen and a hundred foot.

Killultagh in more recent times does not extend to the Crow Hill. It is composed of the following parishes:-- Magheragall, Ballinderry, Aghalee, Aghagallon, Magheramesk, and that portion of Blaris which lies north of last of the Lagan. The last of the Clannaboy O'Neills who lived there was known to the English as the Captain of Killultagh, and he lost it by having joined in the rebellion of his relatives in Tyrone, which soon after resulted in what is generally called the Flight of the Earls -- O'Neill and O'Donnell.

On the advent of the Conways, Rawdons, and Hills, with their sturdy followers, the valley of the Lagan was cleared in a great measure of its primeval forests, and the natives retreated behind the hills, or settled in certain districts about Lough Neagh, such as the Moyntaghs and elsewhere, in which locality many of their posterity may still be found. The immediate followers of Sir Fulke Conway came chiefly from Rugby and the adjoining localities of Gloucester, Worcester, and Warwick, whence they probably sailed from Bristol. The most of them settled about Lisburn, Lambeg, and Blaris, from whence they spread themselves over the Rawdon manors of Killultagh and Derryvolgie. By their fondness for orchards they justified the tradition of their fathers, having come from the apple counties of England. In addition to these there was another and perhaps smaller stream of settlers who followed the fortunes of the Rawdons from their Yorkshire home, Lancashire, Cheshire, and Cumberland. These appear chiefly in the northern part of the estate, where they came more into contact with the Scotch and native Irish from Killead and Crumlin to the Lough. They also spread themselves over from Camlin, Glenavy, and Ballinderry to Portmore and eastward about Brookhill, where the agent of the estate, Major Rawdon, afterwards resided. About the middle of the Protectorate, the third Lord Conway being desirous of having a residence at the other end of his property beyond Lisburn, selected a site of extreme beauty at Portmore, where there had formerly been an old fort of the Captain of Killultagh. On the north and east the eye rested for miles on the fertile and beautiful lands of Glenavy and Ballinderry, with the tower of Ram's Island rising from a curve of the lake. It was famous for its gigantic oaks; they were the pride of the neighbourhood, and the wonder of all who saw them. One of the largest, known as the great oak of Portmore, was blown down in 1760. Many articles of furniture were made of it, and are still held in great estimation amongst the descendants of those to whom it was once well known. Since then they have all ceased to exist, as well as the palatial residence of which they were once so great an ornament. The celebrated Jeremy Taylor resided for some time at Portmore, and whilst there he wrote his last great work, styled "The Rule of Conscience."

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CASTLE-ROBIN, by R. R. Belshaw.

From "Lisburn Standard," Feb. 17, 1883.

In the brave day's of old, when Sir Shane O'Neill, the last lord of Claneboye (known to his English friends as the Captain of Killultagh), was living, he had a residence in the pass which lies on the eastern slope of the White Mountain, two mile's north, of Lisburn. In former times this position was considered one of some strategic importance. On the mound and in the vicinity of the castle he must have had a good view of his subjects from the mountains behind him to Lisnagarvey in front, which was then known as the Gamblers' Fort, on the Lagan. It was the scene of many a festive gathering when those jolly sub-commissioners -- the O'Neills, the O'Lynns, including the historic Brien, the O'Laverys, the O'Hagans, and the O'Hanlons; with the Teagues of the Bohill and their cousins trom the Moyntaghs -- all met to talk over the latest "message of peace" to the lawyers, and all their social grievances, which were never lessened by a free use of usquebagh, or a little aqua vitæ if a Scotch friend happened to drop in. Their infatuation for games of chance was so great that they often played the clothes off each other's backs, and in this condition many of them were often ripe for "treasons, stratagems, and spoils," especially cattle-lifting. In those early times Lisburn must have been rather an uncertain market for those who had anything to lose. The industrial element being too much in abeyance, this state of affairs could not last always, so a time came when everything was changed; the Elisabethan captains appearing on the scene to settle the land question and all other disputes amongst the natives.

In command of these arrivals was a Colonel Sir Francis Brook, after whom Brookhill is said to have been called; also three brothers named Norton, one of whom became owner of an estate at Templepatrick, where he had a residence known as Castle Norton. His brother Gregory was attached to the garrison at Carrickfergus under Sir Fulke Conway, where he seems to have settled down, and was mayor for some years. In 1579 the third brother, Robert, rebuilt the old residence of the O'Neills at the White Mountain, and from his having done so it was ever afterwards known as Castlerobin. A grandnephew of these brothers, Edward Ellis, was high sheriff of Antrim, and lived many years at Brookhill during the interval between its occupation by the Rawdon and Watson families.

We must now return to Castle-Robin, and relate an incident which happened there during the year 1643. Old Shane O'Neill, its former owner, and after whom the castle at Lough Neagh -- his headquarters -- was called, married Rose, a daughter of Magennis, the chieftain of Iveagh, in Down. His eldest son, Sir Henry O'Neill, had an only daughter, Rose, who became the second wife of the second Earl of Antrim. Her predecessor was the widow of the ill-fated Duke of Buckingham. With reference to the frequency of the name Rose, almost every branch of the O'Neills had one, and she was generally the eldest daughter. In this way it passed through them into nearly all the leading families of the country with whom they were connected. This Earl of Antrim, who afterwards became first Marquis, was chief of the Clandonnell of the Routes and Glen's, and had been Lord of the Isles, which latter title he renounced in favour of his Scottish kindred. He was said to have been brought up in the Highland fashion, and to have worn neither hat, cap, shoes, nor stockings until he was eight years old.

In the month of April, 1642 -- six months after the outbreak of the rebellion in the previous year -- the first detachment of the Scottish army, under General Monroe, arrived at Carrickfergus. The zeal of General Monroe led him to look on the Earl of Antrim as an Irish enemy who was perhaps a little more cunning than some of the others. Having gone down with his forces to the Glens as far as Glenarm, he accepted an invitation from the chief of the Clandonnell at Dunluce, whom he must have considered as being in a state of amicable hostility. The hospitality of the Earl, as far as can be known, was abused. For some alleged acts of disloyalty on the part of his tenants, his estates were seized, and he was taken prisoner from his castle and lodged in Carrickfergus, where he was kept about six months, until he made his escape and went over to England. He returned shortly afterwards on some equivocal errand from the king, and was taken prisoner again on his landing in the County Down. Monroe had him brought back to his old quarters at Carrickfergus, where he remained for nine months more.

(To be Continued.)

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 22 February 1918 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week through 1917 and 1918. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)


  1. Edward Ellis owner of Brookhill in 1698, and my ancestor, was also a leading apothecary. As such he was associated with Trinity College Dublin and issued his own coinage/token presumably to help people pay for their medicine (an early NHS??). He was also very close to the Rawdon family.

    1. Thanks for posting Simon. Always good to get a little more flesh on the bones of a story.