Thursday, 23 May 2013

Belle Isle Castle

 Porter of Belle Isle


THE RT REV JOHN PORTER DD, formerly Regius Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge, came to Ireland in 1795 as viceregal chaplain to the 2nd Earl Camden, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1795-98.
There was a convention that viceregal chaplains became bishops. Dr Porter, however, fared exceptionally well because, after only a two-year purgatory in the remote and undesirable bishopric of Killala in County Mayo, he was translated to the singularly valuable bishopric of Clogher, where he remained from 1797 to his death in 1819.

His son and heir, the Rev John Grey Porter, was in 1813 preferred to the prebend and rectory of Kilskeery, also in the diocese of Clogher, which he held until his retirement in 1871.
Bishop Porter married, in 1786, Mary Smith, of Norfolk; and dying in 1819, left issue, his eldest son,

THE REV JOHN GREY PORTER (1789-1873), rector of Kilskeery, County Tyrone; wedded, in 1816, Margaret Lavinia, eldest daughter of Thomas Lindsey, of Hollymount, by his wife Lady Margaret, daughter of 1st Earl of Lucan. The only son,

JOHN GREY VESEY PORTER JP DL (1818-1903), of Belle Isle, County Fermanagh; High Sheriff, 1844; married, in 1863, Elizabeth Jane, daughter of Richard Hall, of Innismore Hall, County Fermanagh.

Dying without an heir, in 1903, the estate devolved upon his nephew,

JOHN PORTER PORTER JP DL (1853-1939), of Belle Isle; married Josephine Henrietta, daughter of Colonel Jesse Lloyd, in 1884.
Mr Porter was given the name of John Porter Archdale at birth, though, in 1876, his name was legally changed to John Porter Porter, when he assumed the surname and arms of Porter only in lieu of his patronymic by Royal Licence; High Sheriff of County Longford, 1879; High Sheriff of County Fermanagh, 1883; also lived at Clonbalt, County Longford.
His 3rd son,

NICHOLAS HENRY ARCHDALE PORTER MC JP DL (1890-1973), of Belle Isle; married Amy, daughter of Charles B Gunther, in 1919; educated at Harrow; Military Cross, 1916; fought in the 1st World War, as a Lieutenant with the 9th Lancers, and was severely wounded on the same day and in the same action in which his elder brother was killed; High Sheriff, 1941.

Mr Porter's marriage was childless, and he had been long pre-deceased by his wife. The heiress to Belle Isle was, therefore, his niece, Miss Lavinia Baird, only daughter of his sister, Audley Josephine, and William James Baird of Elie, Fife.

Miss Baird sold the estate, in 1991, to the 5th Duke of Abercorn KG.

The beautiful Belle Isle Estate is situated on an island in Upper Lough Erne, the nearest village being Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh.

The Castle seems to incorporate a two-storey, 18th century range with a three-sided bow at one end, to which a range of 1820-30 was added at right angles, including a staircase hall, lit atop by an octagonal lantern.

The Castle was re-fashioned after 1880 in the plain, English-Tudor manor-house style, incorporating a gabled entrance front with mullioned windows, projecting porch and a lofty, church-like battlemented tower at the corner of the 1820-30 range.

The latter range, at the garden front facing the lough, is unaltered with the exception of Victorian, plate-glass windows; and Georgian astragals at one end.

Inside the Castle, an oak staircase with barley-sugar balusters replaced the original stairs; and the walls were panelled with oak, too. The octagonal ceiling lantern was left undisturbed.

In 1907, the entrance front was prolonged by a wing in the Tudor style containing a long, tall gallery with a timbered roof, an elaborate fireplace and a minstrels' gallery.

At this end of the entrance front there is a pedimented and gabled office wing, possibly 18th century.

BELLE ISLE is almost surrounded by the waters of Upper Lough Erne and at one time was an island. It is reached via a bridge and the approach to the Castle is a straight avenue.

The original castle dates from 1629 and the present house was created round the core during the mid-19th century.

It is sited in a glorious position of great natural beauty, which has long been acknowledged. Loudon in his Encyclopedia of 1825 remarks that there were 200 acres:
‘… charmingly diversified by hills, dales and gentle declivities, which are richly clothed with old timber through which gravel walks are constructed, and a temple erected, from which a panoramic view is obtained, not only of this but all the other wooded islands of the lough. One of them is exclusively used as a deer park …’. 
Parkland still sweeps down to the lough shore, though the temple has gone. As well as good stands of parkland trees, there are mature shelter belts and wooded areas.

Early 20th century ornamental gardens at the house have been grassed over.

There is a walled garden. Two substantial gate lodges were built at the same time as the house was restored and extended.

The original Belle Isle estate came on the market in 1830. Since the Plantation, it had belonged to the Gore family, baronets, of Manor Gore, County Donegal.

The last of this branch of the Gore family was Sir Ralph Gore, 6th Baronet, later Earl of Ross and Viscount Belleisle (1725-1802).

He had greatly ornamented the pleasure grounds, particularly with follies and garden buildings designed by the well-known Thomas Wright, but the main house was still the modest lodge built by his father in ca 1720.

Lord Ross had died without legitimate issue, leaving Belle Isle to his natural daughter, Mary, wife of Sir Richard Hardinge, 1st Baronet.

Lady Hardinge died in 1824; Sir Richard in 1826.

His nephew and successor, the Rev Sir Charles Hardinge, 2nd Baronet, of Tunbridge, Kent, had no connection with Ireland and presumably no interest in Belle Isle.

Accordingly, in 1830, Sir Charles and his trustees sold the entire Belle Isle estate, consisting of the manors of Belle Isle and Carrick, together with a small leasehold addendum acquired by Sir Ralph Gore, 4th Baronet, in 1724, to the Rev John Grey Porter of Kilskeery for £68,000.

In the 1830s, the Rev John made further extensive purchases of land, in both counties Fermanagh and Longford, this time from the 2nd Earl of Belmore. The Fermanagh lands alone had a rental of £1,869 a year and cost him £75,000.
The combined rental of all these estates (Belle Isle included) was about £6,750 a year - a staggering scale of acquisition (even for one whose father had been in possession of the income of the bishopric of Clogher for 22 years), the more so as the Bishop and the Rev John Grey Porter had each in their time to make provision for six younger children.
Belle Isle remained in the ownership of the Porter family until 1991, when Miss Lavinia Baird sold the estate to the 5th Duke of Abercorn KG.

Belle Isle Estate has published a fuller history here.

The Duke bought Belle Isle for his younger son, Lord Nicholas Hamilton.

The Abercorns have admirably transformed Belle Isle into a truly wonderful 470 acre estate with holiday apartments, cottages, a cookery school and the Castle itself.
One interesting feature on the estate is the new wood pellet burner: Belle Isle Castle currently consumes approximately 25,900 litres of oil per annum which should be reduced by approximately 85% with this new system.

A certain amount of oil is still  required to fuel the Aga cookers. The 22,000 litres of oil will be replaced by approximately 53 tonnes of wood pellets (based on approximately 2.4kg of wood pellets replacing 1 litre of oil).

More detailed information can be obtained at .
 First published in January, 2011.


Anonymous said...

One wonders why he chose "Porter-Porter," (not just Porter) given his real name was Archdale!

Timothy Belmont said...

Strange, isn't it? Then again, the Victorians lived in another era. Belle Isle has a very interesting history, hasn't it?

Anonymous said...

Yes. I presume he was just being pretentious. My gt-gt-grandfather re-named his house a castle - imagine what we'd say about such people now! haha


Timothy Belmont said...

Another wonderful tale of happy times at Belle Isle. Many thanks indeed.

I noticed your mentioned Dick Hermon - Capt. Richard Outram Hermon!

I have written an article about the Hermons and Necarne Castle as well:-

Timothy Belmont said...

Your comments are so fascinating that I may well post a completely separate article, something like "Belle Isle in 1950".

Julian Brown said...

Thank you for your correction! I should indeed refer to Captain Hermon correctly and with due respect.He was a remarkable gentleman.I will most certainly let you have enough material to compile a seperate section on life in Belleisle in the 50's 60's and 70's if you really want it? This also includes the period of Miss Bairds residency. I have video of Miss Baird and my father out and about Belleisle and photographs of them both with show cattle.In addition I often visited Miss Tiggy Brunt and Catptain Hermon at Necarne Castle (The Gardeners House)in the 1970's when they took up residence there after Mr. H. A Porters death. There are pictures of that period too.I am sorting out a scanner to let you have some images. All of my stories will told with affection and humour, there nothing inappropriate.Everyone in Belleisle, Necarne and (in summer) Mullochmore were kind and incredibly generous to all of the Brown family!Evan Captain Hermon mellowed as we grew up.

Timothy Belmont said...

Anything you have that I could post would be marvellous, in the interests of history and posterity.

Seemingly, Capt Hermon was an ace shot, one of the finest in the country.

Julian Brown said...

Hello again, I have emailed you a new article and some photographs. I hope this may be of interest and adds a bit more to my recollections of Belle Isle, Corrard and Mullochmore.

Best Wishes Julian Brown

Julian Brown said...

Hello again Tim,

Thank you for your email. I can see you are a busy man! There is no rush for my article to be posted.

Your blog is as always, very interesting and diverse. It would be fascinating if you did post some of Eva's uncencored comments! Perhaps you could could start to charge for yout blog too and rename it Tim's Times!
Julian Brown

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Anonymous said...

As a Porter descendent myself, I found myself wanting to further my interest in my ancestral legacy out of Northern Ireland and Northumbria. By the way, you have an amazing repository of knowledge and kudos on the implicit due diligence this surely demands.I'm quite jealous!
Lisa Porter-Grenn, M.D.