Monday, 14 June 2021

Storied Homes of Ulster – Brownlow House, Lurgan

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


Brownlow House, Lurgan

From skill and taste came pleasing harmony

LURGAN has grown very much since Captain Pynnar made his survey of property in Co. Armagh in 1618, and noted that William Brownlow had made “a very fair town consisting of 42 houses, all of which are inhabited with English families, and the streets all paved clean through.”

Much of William Brownlow's “very fair house of stone and brick” that lay adjacent to the town can be seen to-day, and the rebuilding which has taken place through the intervening centuries has been carried out so skilfully that there is a lively harmony about the whole dwelling.

Here there is no formalism to produce an “architectural composition.” Windows appear where they are needed to supply light, as the native common sense of those first Elizabethans dictated — a common sense shared both by the Victorians and our own contemporary Elizabethans.

Ornamental chimneys, both real and decorative, sprout from every peak of the many-gabled roof, giving the whole building an air of exuberance and gaiety. This exuberant air is increased by the delicate scrolled stonework that abounds about the dwelling.

Looking at this stonework one can almost believe that the fabled petrifying powers of Lough Neagh have been bequeathed to the ornamental lake that fronts the house, and that some past occupant has proved the waters magic quality by immersing lace to decorate his dwelling.

Succeeding members of the Brownlow family remained patrons of Lurgan throughout the years that followed Pynnar’s Survey.

As early at 1824 the beautiful demesne was thrown open to the public. Even then, the people of Lurgan were free to walk round the fine lake and watch the water-fowl cleave triangular furrows through the reeds, whilst the gulls whirled and swooped and screamed overhead.

Brownlow House was bought by the Orange Body in 1903 and is now an Orange Hall. The beautiful demesne, with its rich plantations and fine sheet of water is a public park.

Bicycles and motor-cars break the stillness of the misty lake, but the water-fowl still sail among the rushes.


Next Week — Moira Village, County Down.

Belfast Telegraph, Wednesday, 23 December 1953.

Storied Homes of Ulster – Corry's Crescent

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


Corry's Crescent

Conceived on lines of Georgian graciousness

WALKING along University Road, with public and private transport perpetually roaring past and crowds of workers, shoppers and University students hurrying on their way, it seems scarcely possible that little more than a hundred years have lapsed since a certain section of the public complained that Queen's had been built too far out in the country.

There is a map of 1848 that shows Queen's and Corry’s Crescent surrounded by open fields, and from this map one can get a clear mental picture of the beautiful square that Robert Carry visualised.

Only the Upper and Lower Crescents of the square he planned were completed, and those who built here later lacked his ideals of beauty.

The Upper Crescent, with its graceful sweeping curve and fine proportions, was completed first, somewhere about 1848, and from the Belfast Directory of 1852 we learn that four new houses in the Lower Crescent were then finished and occupied.

The dignified houses that make up these fine terraces were planned during the middle years of Victoria's reign, when pomposity rampaged in English architecture

Fortunately, Georgian graciousness lingered in Belfast, and here, in Corry’s Crescent is none of the Neo-Gothic influence that characterised new buildings in England at this time, when the spread of education and increased wealth from expanding manufacturing power had given a varied and solid culture to a new middle class.

The terrace where Robert Corry spent much of his life was doubtless the culmination of all he had dreamt during the weary months that followed the accident in which be fractured both his legs.

Looking through the Belfast directories for the years between the Great Exhibition and the Prince Consort's death, one gets a picture of Belfast life in the Crescents. For obvious reasons the Crescents were favoured places of residence for the professors from Queen's. Merchants and manufacturers who wished to live in rural surroundings yet needed to be within easy reach of the city found the neighbourhood a happy choice.

The directory of 1856 tells us that the fortunate occupant of No. 9, Lower Crescent, was a “gentleman.” One wonders if he found the Ladies Seminary run by his next-door-neighbour Miss Black, too noisy for his name had disappeared by 1860.

Merchants, manufacturers, lawyer, parsons, professors, and increasingly, Corry's timber merchants and shipowners, inhabited the terraces, so that, to-day as in the map of 1848, we refer to this place as “Corry's Crescent,” not Upper and Lower Crescent as the directories and nameplates indicate.


Next week – Orangefield

Belfast Telegraph, 9 December 1853