Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Storied Homes of Ulster – Moira Village

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


Moira Village

There is a story locked up in every home

FOR this, the last of this series of articles, I have chosen to write not of one house, but of all those houses that together make up the charming Georgian village of Moira.

Moira is a roadside village, the houses being built on either side of the highway, and its charm and interest are evident to the traveller from the moment that he sees the fine trees growing in the centre of the wide street.

The houses are mostly of rubble masonry, some thatched, some colour-washed a pleasing rose-pink, some with wide arched doorways and graceful fanlights.

It is a peaceful place, this typical Ulster village through which runs the main Lisburn-Lurgan road. Set in an open-flourishing landscape of green fields from whence come some of the means to feed the thriving towns of Britain. Moira has changed very little since Sir George Rawdon acquired an estate there at the end of the 17th century.

The road on which this village is built is excellent, for thereabouts is a tradition of good roads. Even in 1683 the roads for which Sir George was responsible, were described as “verv good, not only from the nature of the soil which generally affords gravel, but from Sir George Rawdon's care.”

Indeed, so excellent a road-maker was this gentleman that he has been described as “the best highwayman in the kingdom.”

Each of the homes of Moira has a story, as yet unwritten, known only to those who live therein.

Every old house has a story if we care to search for it. I have found, during the months in which I have been writing about these homes of Ulster, that this search is well worth making. It may lead in some tale of high romance, to some old deed of courage, or to some story of fortunes founded from small beginnings.

There remain many old Ulster homes whose stories have not been written – great houses, Georgian farms, ancient castles and secluded country houses handed to succeeding generations of the same family.

Of those that I have seen and admired I remember best the serenity of Florencecourt, the green peace of the Southwell almshouses, the glowing rose of Waring House, and the distant grace of Mount Panther, but, above all, I recall with gratitude the kindness of those who own the storied homes of Ulster, and without whose help these tales could not have been written.


Belfast Telegraph, 30 December 1953.

Storied Homes of Ulster – Orangefield House

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


Orangefield House

The demesne has gone and mansion is lost

BELFAST, like all great cities, has crept ever outward, urbanising the surrounding pastureland, using stream and river for its own purpose, until now one must seek for those landmarks that were outstanding features little more than a century past.

When, in 1823, Atkinson described Orangefield, the seat of Hugh Crawford, a proprietor of the Belfast Bank, he said that this estate was “a more extensive feature of the Belfast neighbourhood than any of those on the Downpatrick road.”

Then, the handsome square house stood on a richly planted demesne of 200 acres, and a corn and flour mill added greatly to the wealth of the owner and to the welfare of the tenants.

The trees in the demesne were for the most part oak and ash, either fully grown or “far advanced to maturity,” some of them planted no doubt by Thomas Bateson who left Lancashire in the 17th century and came to Orangefield.

The uniformly laid surface of the land was in those days considered a defect, but the extensive views of the Belfast mountains, the hills of Castlereagh and the church of Knock and Breda compensated for this fault.

The fault became a virtue later when the level land was covered with neat and pleasant houses. To-day the extensive demesne is so intersected by parks and avenues that it is difficult to find the “excellent mansion” of which Atkinson wrote.

The mansion, though in good repair, is no longer the spruce dwelling house that it was, and the oak and the ash have long since gone. Only here and there are to be seen the stumps of the great trees beside a sturdy remnant of the wall which once enclosed the demesne.

For a long time Orangefield was deserted and then a group of enterprising businessmen saw its possibilities. It is now the headquarters for several manufacturing concerns. The windows are stacked high with boxed goods and all day vans come and go in the driveway.

Here in this place that once saw a most leisurely manner of living, workpeople are busy preparing and canning food-stuffs, and, since Orangefield House is in the centre of a most populous neighbourhood, it is never difficult to find extra hands. Even the old stables and coach-houses have been re-built and utilised, and a modern, hygienic canning plant has been installed where once the horses rested.


Next week – Brownlow House, Lurgan.

Belfast Telegraph, 16 December 1953.