Monday, 21 December 2020

Storied Homes of Ulster – Castle Ward

The following is part of a series of articles which appeared in the Belfast Telegraph in 1953 under the pen name 'Fina'.


Castle Ward

The owner who fell in a duel

NOW, on every fine day, the farmers are busy garnering as much of the harvest as they can save after this wet summer. Driving towards Strangford on one of these blue and gold days of early autumn, I saw a line of men, scythes in hand, moving rhythmically across a cornfield laid low by wind and weather, and impossible to harvest by machine.

Close behind them followed their women kind, gathering and stooking the corn as it fell. These countryfolk were working the fields as their ancestors worked them, when Castle Ward was Carrick na Sheannagh, and before Robert Ward, Surveyor General of Ireland in the time of Elizabeth 1, purchased the estate from the Earl of Kildare.

The original house was built close by the farm and nearer the Lough, and it was from this house that Bernard Ward, great great grandson of Robert Ward, went out to fight against Jocelyn Hamilton, the duel in which he was killed and Jocelyn Hamilton mortally wounded.

Bernard Ward's grandson became Deputy Governor of Co. Down in 1759, and it was about this time that Mrs. Delaney described Castle Ward as being "altogether one of the finest places I ever saw."

However, the Deputy Governor of County Down wanted a finer mansion, albeit he and his Lady found some difficulty in deciding upon the architectural style; he wanted a dwelling in the classic manner, she desired something fashionably Gothic, as Mr. Walpole's house at Strawberry Hill. Husband and wife compromised, with the curious result that at Castle Ward one side of the dwelling has the pointed windows and battlements of the Gothic taste, whilst the other side has a severe classic elevation.

A letter from Mrs. Delaney to her sister, written about the time of the erection of the new dwelling, gives us her opinion. She wrote:

"Mr. Ward is building a fine house, but the scene about it so uncommonly fine it is a pity it should not be judiciously laid out. He wants taste, and Lady Anne is so whimsical that I doubt her judgment. If they do not do too much they cannot spoil the place, for it hath every advantage from nature that can be desired."

In 1770, Mr. Ward was created Baron Bangor. A faithful account of the style of living at Castle Ward about this time is given to us by Sir James Caldwell, of Co. Fermanagh, who, on October 12, 1772, having business with Lord Bangor, called at Castle Ward and was invited to dine and spend the night. Here is an extract from his diary:—

"There was an excellent dinner, stewed trout at the head, chine of beef at the foot, soup in the middle, a little pie at each side, and four trifling things at the corners.

The second course of nine dishes was made out in much the same way. After the cloth was taken away the fruit – a pineapple, a small plate of peaches, grapes and figs, and the rest, pears and apples. During dinner two French horns of Lady Clanwilliam's played very fairly in the hall next the parlour.

Portraits of the Ward ancestors hang in the dining room at Castle Ward, and, as Lady Bangor has handed this historic house to the National Trust, next year the public will be privileged to see these portraits and the treasures that the house contains.


Next week: Stormont Castle.

Belfast Telegraph
, 2 September 1953.

Storied Homes of Ulster – Caledon House, Co. Tyrone

The following is part of a series of articles which appeared in the Belfast Telegraph in 1953 under the pen name 'Fina'.


Caledon House, Co. Tyrone

Ulster’s richest ‘Nabob’ purchased this estate

In 1772, three years before the Americans began their War of Independence, there returned from India the richest “nabob” that Ulster has known, James Alexander. James, son of Nathaniel, an alderman of Derry had seen service with the East Indian Company, both on the coast of Coromandel and at Fort William. Still only 42 when he returned, James Alexander became one of the greatest landowners in the country, purchasing the Caledon estate from the extravagant son of the 5th Earl of Orrery

The estate of Caledon, or Kinard as it was anciently known, has changed hands more than once in the last three hundred years. The lands were granted, in 1605, to Sir Henry Oge O'Neill, and, later in the seventeenth century, Sir Phelim O'Neill, who held Co Tyrone against the English, had his headquarters there.

When Charles II came to the throne the estate was in the hands of the authorities, and in 1660 a King's letter instructed the Lords Justice to give to Capt. William Hamilton "satisfaction for all his arrears” out of the lands in the barony of Dungannon.

Captain Hamilton's granddaughter, heiress of the Caledon estate, became the second wife of the Earl of Orrery, and it was her son who sold his inheritance to James Alexander.

James married Ann, the daughter of James Crawford, of Crawfordsburn, and, wanting a house in keeping with his wealth and position, he commissioned Thos. Cooley to design the Palladian mansion that stands in that vast and beautiful 800 acres which comprise the Caledon lands.

Caledon House follows the fashion of its era, when even country builders knew enough of the orders and details of antiquity to be able to reproduce a miniature Pantheon.

The Interior of the dwelling is in the true Adam style every detail being in perfect unity. To preserve the contours of the oval drawing room. for example, even the doors and mantels are curved.

James Alexander and his comely bride were, however, destined never to reside together in this classical replacement of the old house, for Ann died before the house was completed, leaving an infant son. After her death her husband devoted himself almost entirely to his Parliamentary duties. As a reward for his zeal in public office he was created a Viscount in 1797. Three years later he became an Earl.

When his son inherited the estate in 1802, the classicism of the Georgian period was at its zenith, and the 2nd Earl commissioned the great John Nash to design the enlargement he had planned.

This grandson of Alderman Alexander's was a model landlord in those days when philanthropy was not generally to be found. His relations with his tenants were of the happiest; he built model cottages, laid out the town of Caledon, and erected the pleasant Court House, at a cost to himself of some £3,000. So beloved was he by his tenants that at his death a handsome column was erected in the demesne, paid for by public subscription.


Next week — Castle Ward, Strangford, Co. Down

Belfast Telegraph, 26 August 1953.

Monday, 14 December 2020

Belfast’s First Fair


333 Years Ago This Week (in 1937 that was)

Belfast’s First Fair Was Held

Belfast's first fair was held in the first week of August 1604, 333 years ago. It was not very much of a Fair Day. Belfast was only the germ of what it is to-day. There was a castle, a church, a few wooden houses clustered round the confluence of the Faraet and the Logan, and nothing else but countryside around.

* * * * *

It was King James I. who granted the authority to hold a fair in Belfast. When the King gave so much land to James Hamilton In Clandeboye he mentioned "a Friday weekly market at Belfast "

Later, a further grant was given to a Mr. John Wakeman, of Belfast, who had liberty to "hold for ever a fair on every August 1 and the day following at Belfast."

* * * * *

The Sovereign of Belfast, in addition to his other duties, was Clerk of the Market at Belfast's first fair.

What exactly his duties were it is hard to say, but the authorities took good care to see that all custom's duties payable on goods sold were to be settled "at the port of Cnrrickfergus."

* * * * *

Business at the Belfast fair evidently had increased thirty years later. A town hall was actually mooted in 1639 which was to be used for municipal work as well as a market house. This town hall stood at the corner of High Street and Corn Market. In the "sellers" were benches for storing goods, while the upper floor was the council chamber of the corporation. The only relic of this old building — the foundation of Belfast's commerce — is a bell the property of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, to whom it was presented by Lord Donegall.

* * * * *

What did they buy and sell in the early Belfast fairs? It should be remembered that a considerable trade in wines had been in vogue for some time before the first Belfast fair. This wine came from Spain mostly, and paid — or did not pay — its duty at Carrickfergus Castle.

Then there were horses, fowl, cows, sheep pigs and goats, which made their first official appearance at a Belfast fair. There were the usual agricultural sales of vegetables, and, as the fairs became regular, articles of clothing.

* * * * *

Readers should remember that it was under James I. that regular administration of justlce began to be established in Ulster. This naturally led to a growth of trade. Counties Antrim and Down were fairly well populated at this time, and in addition to Carrickfergus the ports of Connswater and Garmoyle only had official recognition from the Customs' officers.

Therefore, the recognition of Belfast as a suitable place to hold a weekly fair was timely.

And it is to be noted that in the succeeding reign of Charles I. it was reported that the Customs' revenue from Belfast had increased fourfold: shipping had increased a hundredfold, and the values of land around Belfast had increased greatly.

Did Belfast's first fair lay its foundations as a city? Did It put the little village on the high road of prosperity? It's history has proved at any rate it assisted its progress considerably.


Belfast Telegraph, 6 August 1937