Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Balrath Bury House


This family came originally from Yorkshire.

GILBERT NICHOLSON, of Bare and Poulton, of Lyndall, in Lonsdale, and of Baton and Easterton, in Westmorland, married Grace, daughter and co-heir of Gyles Curwen, of Poulton Hall, and had issue,
FRANCIS, dvp leaving a son, HUMPHRY;
Gilbert Nicholson died in 1605, and was succeeded by his grandson,

HUMPHRY NICHOLSON, who was father of

GILBERT NICHOLSON (1620-1709), formerly of Poulton, Lancashire, and of the city of Dublin,
Lieutenant in the royal army before 1649, and one of the Forty-nine Officers, whose arrears of pay were paid up after the Restoration, "for service done by them to His Majesty, or to his royal father, as commissioners in the wars of Ireland, before the 5th day of June, 1649." 
By the Act of Settlement he received grants of land in County Monaghan, which he sold, and bought Balrath Bury in 1669. 
He afterwards resided in Dublin, and died, in 1709, aged 89. He and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Thomas Worsopp, Knight, are buried in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and on their tomb-stone appear the arms and crest still used by the family.
The issue of the marriage were,
THOMAS, of whom presently;
The second, but eldest surviving son,

THOMAS NICHOLSON, of Balrath Bury, born in 1662, inherited Balrath Bury in 1709.

In 1692, he was a commissioner for County Meath, during the reign of WILLIAM & MARY, and High Sheriff, 1704.

He married firstly, in 1691, Mary, daughter of John Beauchamp, and had, with other issue, a daughter, Anne, whose daughter, Margaret, was second wife of Sir Richard Steele Bt, of Hampstead.

He wedded secondly, in 1700, Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of John Wood, of Garclony, and had issue,
CHRISTOPHER, of whom we treat;
John; Thomas; Gilbert.
He espoused thirdly, Rose, widow of Simeon Pepper, of Ballygarth, by whom he had no issue.

The eldest son,

CHRISTOPHER NICHOLSON, of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff of Meath in 1735, espoused firstly, in 1723, Elinor, only daughter of Simeon Pepper, of Ballygarth, by Rose his wife, daughter of the Hon Oliver Lambart, of Plainstown, and granddaughter of Charles, 1st Earl of Cavan, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
Rose; Christian; Emilia.
He wedded secondly, in 1751, Mary, daughter of Oliver Lambart, of Plainstown, by whom he had no issue.

His eldest son,

JOHN NICHOLSON (1724-82), of Balrath Bury, Captain, Coldstream Guards, wedded, in 1766, Anna Maria, daughter of Sir Samuel Armytage Bt, of Kirklees, Yorkshire, widow of Thomas Carter, of Shaen, and had issue,
He was succeeded by his elder son,

CHRISTOPHER ARMYTAGE NICHOLSON JP DL (1768-1849), of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff, 1791, who married firstly, in 1796, Catharine, daughter of the Most Rev William Newcombe, Lord Archbishop of Armagh, by Anna Maria his wife, daughter and co-heir of Edward Smyth, of Callow Hill, County Fermanagh, second son of the Ven James Smyth, Archdeacon of Meath, and had issue,
JOHN ARMYTAGE, his heir;
Christopher Hampden;
William (Rev);
Gilbert Thomas, JP;
Anna Maria.
He wedded secondly, in 1826, Anna, daughter of George Lenox-Conyngham, of Springhill, County Londonderry, by Olivia his wife, daughter of William Irvine, of Castle Irvine, County Fermanagh, and had issue,
Armytage Lenox, JP;
Olivia; Sophia Elizabeth.
Mr Nicholson was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN ARMYTAGE NICHOLSON JP DL (1798-1872), of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff of Meath, 1827, who married, in 1824, Elizabeth Rebecca, daughter of the Rt Rev and Rt Hon Nathaniel Alexander, Lord Bishop of Meath (nephew of James, 1st Earl of Caledon), by Anne his wife, daughter and heir of the Rt Hon Sir Richard Jackson, of Forkhill, by Anne his wife, sister of John, 1st Viscount O'Neill, and had issue,
Nathaniel Alexander;
John Hampden (Rev);
William Newcome;
Gilbert de Poulton;
Katharine; Anne.
Mr Nicholson was succeeded by his eldest son,

CHRISTOPHER ARMYTAGE NICHOLSON JP DL (1825-87), of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff, 1856, who espoused, in 1858, Frances Augusta, eldest daughter of the Hon Augustus Henry MacDonald Moreton, and had issue,
GILBERT MORETON, died unmarried;
JOHN HAMPDEN, succeeded his brother;
Mary Jane; Elizabeth Katharine; Emilia Olivia.
His only surviving son,

JOHN HAMPDEN NICHOLSON JP (1871-1935), of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff, 1895, married, in 1894, Florence Isabel, third daughter of Thomas Rothwell, of Rockfield, Kells, and had issue,
John Armytage;
Joyce Frances.
His elder son,

CAPTAIN CHRISTOPHER HAMPDEN NICHOLSON (1903-), of Balrath Bury, married Stephanie Adelaide Edwards in 1928.

His only son,

JOHN WARREN NICHOLSON, born in 1931, inherited Balrath House in the 1960s.

Photo credit: New York Social Diary

BALRATH BURY HOUSE, near Kells, County Meath, is a two-storey, pedimented, 18th century house.

It has seven bays with a curved bow at either end of the front.

Three more bays were added to the right; and seven more bays with another pediment plus two further bays to the left side.

Photo credit: New York Social Diary

Today, the front extends to nineteen bays and two bows.

The mansion suffered damage during the 2nd World War, having been used by the military.

It was subsequently reduced in size, in 1942, to the original block.

Balrath Bury is now in the American-Colonial style.

The principal rooms are on either side of a large hall, with a bifurcating staircase.

There is a long, Georgian, pedimented stable block.

It is thought that the most recent owners have been Frank and Carol Mallon.

First published in June, 2013.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Caledon Estate Fête

Shortly after breakfast this morning I got my stuff together, started the two-seater, and drove to the Earl of Caledon's splendid estate in County Tyrone.

My first stop, however, was in the village of Caledon itself, a place of considerable character and charm.

Successive Earls have stamped their mark on the village.

There is a water fountain dedicated to the 4th Earl, KP, on the main street.

I stopped opposite a little café called Café Rose, where I had a beaker of tea.

Afterwards I took a stroll along the village. The Caledon Arms Hotel is, sadly, closed down.

Alexander House, Main Street

It's a pity that such a pretty village cannot sustain a good inn or guest-house.

The main entrance to Caledon Estate is just outside the village, through a very grand entrance gate and lodges. It is unmistakable, especially since there are gleaming, gilded earl's coronets attached to the railings.

The drive must easily be a mile in length.

Caledon Park is one of the finest private estates in Northern Ireland, undoubtedly.

The garden fête today was in aid of the local parish church.

Caledon crest outside the portico porch

I arrived early. However,  when I departed in the afternoon, there were hundreds of cars parked in fields within the 3,000 acre estate.

The atmosphere was most agreeable. Lord and Lady Caledon were outside the house in the grounds.

I chatted briefly with Lady Caledon about an item for sale, viz. a pair of black and gold mini skis, presumably for children, which were emblazoned with the Bentley Motors motif.

The Lord-Lieutenant's official flag flew from the Castle's flag-pole.

Prospect from the garden front

At about twelve forty-five I was taken on a guided walk of the arboretum, yew-tree garden, stables and the grounds within the immediate vicinity of the Castle.

There were lots of displays on the lawns outside the Castle, including stalls in marquees, military displays, and police dog-handler demonstrations.


Of course there was no shortage of nosh, either. I could not resist the hog-roast stall.

For a fiver, you received a generous helping of roasted hog, baby roast potatoes, apple sauce, and stuffing.

Former head gardener's cottage

The fête was officially opened by Captain Dame Mary Peters CH DBE RNR, erstwhile Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast (obviously acquainted with Lord Caledon, KCVO, Lord-Lieutenant of County Armagh).

I left at about three-thirty.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Glenarm Castle Tour


I was in my element during the weekend: Barons Court, County Tyrone, on Saturday; and  Glenarm Castle, County Antrim, yesterday.

Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce (Lord Dunluce is heir to the earldom) have done a splendid job of restoring and rejuvenating their lovely home beside the historic village of Glenarm.

Glenarm Castle estate remains sizeable, comprising about 1,300 acres.

Antrim arms

I arrived in Glenarm  at about eleven forty-five, just in time for the first guided tour of the Castle.

George, the butler, and Elaine, the housekeeper, were on hand to guide us through the principal rooms.

East elevation

The present Castle seems to date from 1756, although there have been many additions and alterations since then.

Out tour began in the hall, which rises two storeys.

There are a number of family portraits here, including one of Louisa, wife of the 5th Earl and niece of the 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister from 1830-34.

A fine serving-table, dating from 1750, stands below the portrait of Anne, Countess of Antrim in her own right.

The splendidly ethereal ceiling was painted by Angela (née Sykes), Countess of Antrim (1911-84).

Garden front

OUR NEXT stop was the drawing-room.

The late Angela, Lady Antrim, painted scenes from La Fontaine's Fables round the ceiling in the 1950s.

Many ancestral portraits hang here, and four 18th century landscape paintings of the family's two castles, Dunluce and Glenarm.

A number of personal family photographs stand on the grand piano.

THE DINING-ROOM is spacious and elegant, containing two full-length portraits of the 5th and 6th Earls.

Randal, 6th Earl and 2nd Marquess of Antrim, KB, (1749-91), wears the robes of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

The dining-table was laid for six today, though can be considerably enlarged, I gather, to accommodate twelve.

Crockery is monogrammed with the Antrim cipher.

We were apprised that the open fire is seldom lit here because its draught is somewhat less than satisfactory.

THE BLUE ROOM was originally the billiards-room.

There are quite a few equine paintings on the wall, drawn for the 5th Earl, a passionate horseman who kept a stud in the estate.

The 5th Earl is said to have been an avid gambler (hardly surprising given his fondness for the Turf) who squandered much of his money.

Like Barons Court in County Tyrone, Glenarm Castle flourishes today thanks to Lord and Lady Dunluce's love and passion for this historic, ancestral, family home; its magnificent gardens; the wooden Obelisk hand-crafted by Corin Giles; the beautiful cascade and fountains; the herb garden; and the yew circle.

THE BARBICAN gate lodge, available to rent, is built into the estate wall at the end of an old stone bridge spanning the river Glenarm.

It was commissioned in 1823 by Edmund Phelps, the second husband of Anne, Countess of Antrim (in her own right), who inherited the estate when her father, the 6th Earl, died without male issue.

The architect William Vitruvius Morrison built it using local, coursed, rubble basalt and red ashlar sandstone dressings.

This gate lodge has a narrow turret staircase which leads onto a roof terrace overlooking the surrounding countryside.


BEFORE I conclude this article, I wish to mention the Castle tea-room.

I lunched here yesterday and enjoyed a hearty bowl of home-made sweet potato and parsnip soup, with a fresh bread roll and butter.

It was delicious. I complimented the staff and accordingly bade them Farewell.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Barons Court Tour

Our tour of Barons Court House began in the front hall, where Lord Anthony Hamilton, the Duke of Abercorn's brother, greeted us.

The House dates as far back as 1790 and has adapted itself admirably throughout many generations of the family.

When you enter this large hall, the splendid ceiling catches the eye with its elaborate Italian plasterwork.

It was used by the 4th Duke and Duchess, the present Duke's parents, as a living-room.

This hall has six doors leading from it into other reception rooms.

There is an exquisite portrait of Emma Hamilton (no relation) by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

THENCE we moved in to the rotunda with its glorious coffered ceiling.

I gather that this was once a music-room; though today it is used for formal dinners or even meetings.

Yesterday there were four sizeable portfolios of drawings by Sir Edwin Landseer laid on the table.

THE LONG GALLERY is about thirty yards in length.

It faces what is now the garden front of the House; however this was originally the entrance to Barons Court.

This is a bright and spacious room.

Its considerable size makes it ideal for family celebrations, parties and even christenings.

This room contains fine furnishings and paintings, including a commode with the cipher of Marie Antionette.

THE BROWN LIBRARY, leading from the long gallery, is a family room which makes skilful use of subdued and quiet red and brown colours.

OUR next part of the tour took us to the lofty and spacious staircase hall.

It's not hard to miss the massive painting by Jordaens, quite aptly entitled Soldiers Carousing (!).

I've been told that this room can be used for shooting parties and children's parties.

An antique pianola sits directly under the staircase.

THE last room we visited was what is today known as the Family Room.

It used to be the large dining-room, though, with the sage advice of the celebrated interior designer, David Hicks, the room has been "compartmentalised" into different areas and dark green free-standing units.

At one end there is a kitchen; while there is a space at the other end with drinks cabinet and CD player and so on.

BARONS COURT remains essentially a family home and it is delightful that the Duke and Duchess open its doors occasionally for everyone to enjoy and admire.

Thursday, 4 June 2015


Star, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order

His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales has been appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) by Her Majesty The Queen.

Monday, 1 June 2015