Additional Sidelights on Belfast History


The destruction of Belfast Castle was a blessing to the community from an economic point of view. The Countess Dowager, after the death of her husband, was reluctantly compelled to seek monetary assistance from the government, for which she had in her favour a letter from King Charles of Spain to Anne, Queen of England :--

"Madam my Sister, -- It is always with the utmost satisfaction that I do justice to those worthy persons who signalise themselves by their conduct and valour in their Majesty's service and mine.

"My Lord Donegall was remarkably so when alive; and more particularly at the last siege of my city of Barcelona; both in his quickness in succouring it from Giron and the long valiant defence he made in fort Monjuich where he lost his life at the assault; it is in a great measure to his memory that I am indebted for the preservation of that capital: and, it may be, for all the possessions I now have in Spain."

"I shall injure your Majesty's usual generosity by offering to recommend to your favour the family of so worthy a gentleman, for I know your Majesty's inclinations go to it. I will only add that I shall place all your marks of favour and acknowledgment which your Majesty will please to bestow on the family to my own account, as well as the remaining obligations."

"I am with the sincere respect, gratitude, and love etc."

"To the Queen of Great Britain."

Acting on that recommendation, the Countess Dowager made an appeal for pecuniary assistance which was supported by James, 2nd Duke of Ormonde, to whom the Countess wrote on 29th January, 1707 :--

"Acknowledging his Grace's great bounty and unparalleled goodness to her family and herself in recommending her Petition to the Queen."


In the vain hope of restoring the Castle to its former state, the Countess Dowager, as sole guardian of the young Earl, refrained from developing, as a source of income, the ground surrounding the ruins. Four months after the Castle had been burned, R Leathes was appointed Constable of the Castle by "Arthur, Earl of Donegall and with the approbation and consent of Katherine, Countess Dowager of Donegall, my Mother and Guardian". But necessitas non habet legem, and the first step towards developing the Demesne Lands was on 27th February, 1716, when the Rev. William Tisdall, D.D., Vicar of Belfast, was granted a lease of :--

"all that the Gatehouse before the Castle which was lately burned in Belfast together with the garden which lies opposite the said Gatehouse, the Garden together with the Court between the said House and Garden, and the Coach House at the end thereof; and also the flagged Court behind the said Gatehouse which was formerly the passage to the Castle before it was burned; reserving unto the said Earl of Donegall... such passage through the said fore Court lying between the said Garden and the House as shall be proper to go to the Stables and Gardens."

"And also 6 acres of Meadow and Pasture, part of the Demesne Land Belfast, near and contiguous to the said House and premises, as also liberty of the Long Walk adjoining to the said Garden."

"... Provided always that if at any time the said Earl or his Heirs shall be minded to repair the Castle lately burned or build another house on the said premises to reside in, that then this present lease shall be void, the said Earl postpaying unto the said Dr William Tisdall what sum of money he, the said Dr William Tisdall, shall reasonably expend in amending the said Gatehouse or Coach house and the said Earl giving 12 months notice of his intention" ... "at the yearly rent of £6 sterling."

The Earl was still a minor at the date of the above lease, attaining his majority on 28th March, 1716, and married Lucy, eldest daughter and co-heir of R Ridgeway, Earl of Londonderry in October of the same year, when it was decided not to rebuild the Castle or to erect another house in the grounds to reside in.

The demesne lands were leased out in rapid succession. On 13th June, 1717, a 41 years' lease was granted to John Carpenter, of Killanean, in the County of Catherlogh (now Carlow) gentleman, who had been elected a Free Burgess on 13th April, 1717; was Sovereign in 1718 and 1719; and died in 1729, the parcels of which are :--

"all that the demeans and demean lands of Belfast viz., the Castle Gardens, Orchards, Pigeonhouse, Stables, Coachhouses, and all other Outhouses, Yards, and Backsides; all the Meadows behind the Orchards and Garden, the March adjoining to it, the Cowpasture, the Oxpark Fryars Bush, the Course of Belfast containing about 111 acres and a half, the 27 acres of land late in the possession of John Brookes; the lands of Cromuck containing 154 acres; and 6 acres of land which Serjeson held at Strandmillis; together with the Bowling Green, with passages and easements thereto belonging."

The yearly rent of the above lease was £100 sterling, or roughly seven shillings per acre.

On the following day, 14th June, 1717, a similar lease was granted to R Lebyrtt, who had been Town Clerk since 29th January, 1714; and Sovereign during the six years before his death, 17th February, 1745, the parcels of which are :--

"all that piece or parcel of ground called the Ash Walk, lying and being on the S. side of Castle Street... containing in front to the said street 250 feet and extending backwards to the Meadow called the Cow Pasture, now in the tenure of John Carpenter, containing about 530 feet; bounded on the W with William Johnston's butcher and the Bowling Green, together with the Orchard, called Robin's Orchard, joining to the said Ash Walk on the E. side, and fronting to the Castle Street; and bounded on the E. by the Garden called the Melon Garden; and extending back from the way leading to the Castle Stables from the said Ash Walk."

All that extensive holding, comprising three acres in extent, was held on lease for 41 years at the annual rent of £2, or 13 shillings and fourpence per acre.

In the following month, 24 July, 1717, Lieutenant Henry Ellis, Sovereign of Belfast, and also Sovereign in 1722, during which year he died in office, was granted a similar lease, the parcels of which are :--

"all that dwelling house and office houses, Cellars, Gardens, and Backsides, together with the yard commonly called the Bargeyard, now in the tenure and occupation of the said Henry Ellis, together with a little Garden at the end of the New Buildings, late in the possession of Margarett Purdy Widow; as also the house late in the possession of David Leathum; bounded between the Cow Markett on the E. and the Butchers' Shambles and Castle Pleasure Garden on the N.W.; and Castle Gardens and the Castle Stead on the S.W.; and the Entrance into the Longbank on the S."

The yearly rent was £15 10s. 0d.

By the four leases as above mentioned, granted by the 4th Earl, within 16 months after he had attained his majority, the entire demesne lands had passed, for the time being, out of the hands of the Donegall family, and all the glory and beauty of the century-old Castle had become "one with Nineveh and Tyre". But out of the ruins there was to rise, Phoenix-like, the centre of a great industrial community which, by sheer doggedness and enterprise, combined with commercial aptitude, converted a mere cluster of houses on the banks of the Farset to a populous area, on both sides of the Lagan, embracing, in 1926, twenty-three square miles, exclusive of tidal waters; having a population, at the same date, of 415,151 -- a great centre of industrial activity, possessing "all such rank, liberties, privileges, and immunities as are incident to a city" with the motto, emblazoned on its heraldic arms--


It should be noted that these leases were granted at exceedingly low rents and, in three of the above four instances, to men who had been elected to the corporate body, which was sufficient justification for the observation of a future Lord Chancellor, during an application to declare the Earl a lunatic : "He had not been used to business or to the care of his estates and concerns."

The circumstances under which that statement was made may be briefly stated. On the death of the Countess Dowager, 1743, her son, the 4th Earl, was "in advanced years, very infirm, and very much encumbered with debts." He was a childless widower, and the estate being limited in tail male, his successor was a nephew, son of the Hon. John Chichester, who died on 21st June, 1746, having made his Will some three weeks earlier, appointing his wife "sole guardian of all my children". But the Will provided that in the event of his widow's death, while any of the children were under the age of twenty-one, the Trustees should be his brothers-in-law, Sir Roger Newdigate and John Ludford, who had married a sister of Sir Roger, and also of testator's widow. The widow only survived her husband for less than a year, and, consequently, on her death, February, 1747, Newdigate and Ludford became trustees, the heir presumptive being only eight years old. John Ludford was the Estate agent of the 4th Earl, in addition to being a trustee of the Hon. John Chichester.

Sir Roger Newdigate, apparently from a desire to get chief control of the Donegall Estates, to which his ward was the heir presumptive, petitioned the Lord Chancellor for a Commission of Lunacy, in the matter of the 4th Earl, and opposed a Bill, prepared and printed for the purpose of granting leases "at the Town of Belfast for three lives or 99 years", with the object of rebuilding the town which, it was expressly stated, the Earl of Donegall "is utterly incapable to undertake at his own expense".

The Bill never became an Act of Parliament, as the matter was settled by appointing, as trustees, Mr. John Ludford and the Hon. Arthur Barry, whose mother was Anne, youngest sister of the 4th Earl of Donegall, she having married James, 4th Earl of Barrymore, as his third wife.

Sir Roger Newdigate opposed the Bill, as appears in a letter to Mr. Ludford, dated 26th March, 1752, of Viscount Massereene, a nephew of the 4th Earl, whose eldest sister, Catherine, married Clotworthy (Skeffington), 4th Viscount Massereene, 9th September, 1713 :--

"I own I am greatly surprised at this unexpected opposition from Sir Roger Newdigate to the Bill, which, in my opinion, is absolutely necessary for the good of the Donegall Estate. I live in the neighbourhood of Belfast and know it to be in a ruinous condition, and will lose both its trade and inhabitants if it is not speedily supported by proper Tenures. I cannot imagine that Sir Roger can possibly succeed in this application for a second Enquiry into Ld Donegal's Sanity. I think the Chancellor is so well apprised of every thing that has been done & knows it has been so well intended that I cannot suppose he will now go into a fresh Enquiry. I shall most readily concurr in everything that you and Mr. Barry propose, which I dare say will be for the good of the Family which I am sensible you have both at heart as much as I have. I have never seen the Deed of Trust yet."


Death intervened a few weeks later and Arthur, 4th Earl of Donegall, was succeeded, September, 1757, by his nephew, Arthur Chichester, a boy of eighteen (born 13th June, 1739), who, during the forty-two years that he was 5th Earl and later 1st Marquis of Donegall, proved himself to be a great benefactor of Belfast.

After the family mansion had been destroyed, the Countess Dowager spent the long evening of her widowhood, extending over 37 years, far distant from the scenes that had to her such sad associations. At the age of 73 she died at her Abinger seat in Surrey, 15th June, 1743, and, at midnight of lOth August following, her remains were deposited in the Chichester Vault, Carrickfergus, to commingle with the dust of her beloved daughters, whose premature death was a painful recollection to the end. It is said that she kept two Holy Feasts -- one on 10th April, the anniversary of her husband's death, the other on 25th April, the anniversary of the disastrous fatal fire.

The following inscription was engraved upon a gilt plate on the lid of her coffin :-


Benn says (p.572) :-- "Swift commemorated her virtues in the following lines before misfortunes blighted her life":

"Unerring Heaven, with bounteous hand,
Has formed a model for our land,
Whom Love endowed with every grace,
The glory of the Granard race :--
Now destined by the Powers divine
The blessing of another line.
Then would you paint a matchless dame
Whom you'd consign to endless fame,
Invoke not Cytherea's aid --
Nor borrow from the blue-eyed maid,
Nor need you on the Graces call --
Take qualities from Donegall."

The only indication Benn gives as to the date when Swift wrote the lines is "before misfortunes blighted her life", thereby referring, I presume, to the death of her husband in 1706; the burning of her three youngest daughters two years later; and her son, the 4th Earl, an imbecile. But it was not until after Swift's death that the lines were published in the small miscellany entitled The Story of the Injured Lady "with Letters and Poems Never before Printed", in which the lines appear on a separate page, under the heading: "VERSES upon the late Countess of Donegal, who died in the Year 1743." It is impossible to conceive Swift writing those lines after the death of the Countess without making some reference to "misfortunes which blighted her life."

The lines, however, had been already printed by Samuel Fairbrother, a Dublin printer who, in 1735, issued Vol. IV of Miscellanies, in which they are the concluding twelve lines of Apollo's Edict, in a slightly different form from what appears either in Benn or The Story of the Injured Lady :

"Unerring Heav'n, with bounteous Hand,
Has form'd a Model for your Land;
Whom Jove endow'd with ev'ry Grace,
The Glory of the Granard Race;
Now destin'd, by the Powers divine,
The Blessing of another Line:
Then wou'd you paint a matchless Dame,
Whom you'd consigne to endless Fame !
Invoke not Citherea's Aid,
Nor borrow from the Blew-ey'd Maid;
Nor need you on the Graces call,
Take Qualities from DONEGAL."

The Injured Lady

The lines in Apollo's Edict are identical with those which appear in The Story of the Injured Lady, with the exception of some slight difference in spelling and the use of italics and capitals. But they differ very materially from what appears in Benn, where "Love" is substituted for "Jove" and "model for our land" for " Model for your Land". But all three versions contain the words :--

"Now destined by the Powers divine
The Blessing of another Line."

The inclusion of the adverb indicates clearly to my mind that the lines were written and addressed to the Countess in the early years of her married life.

Katherine, only daughter of Arthur, Earl of Granard, was married to Arthur, 3rd Earl of Donegall, as his second wife, in 1685. A few years later, Swift was located in Kilroot, in the vicinity of Carrickfergus, where the young married couple spent much of their time, when not resident in Belfast Castle. That Swift was then acquainted with the Countess is testified by his letter to Varina, daughter of William Waring of Belfast, dated 29th April, 1696:--

"My Lady Donegall tells me... that it is feared my Lord Deputy will not live many days, and if that be so it is possible I may take shipping from here."

There is undoubted proof that the "Verses" were written sometime prior to the death of the Countess, as they appear in Fairbrother's (Vol. IV), published in 1735, eight years before her death; and the use of the adverb "now" points to a probability that they were written by Swift during his short ministry at Kilroot.

Donegall Memorial, Carrickfergus

The Marble Tablet has occupied a prominent and honoured position on the walls of St. Nicholas' Church, Carrickfergus, for two and a quarter centuries. It was originally placed over the door of the Vault, leading from the Church, but was removed from that position to the North Transept, or, as it is sometimes called, the Chichester or Donegall Aisle.

Memoriae Perenni

ARTHORI COMITIS DE DONEGALL Vice-comitis Chichester De
Carrickfergus, Bars de Belfast; Comitas Antrim, Locm
tenentis, Urbis Carrickfergus Praefecti, &c. Serenissimae Annae
Angliae, &c., Reginae Copiarum In Hispanias missarum Legati;

Qui in Barcelona Urbe Hispanica Facet, Sepultus.

Ille, anna 1704, Calpe quo tempore ab unitis Hispaniarum
et Galliae viribus oppugnabatur in urbem felicissimum
intulit auxilium, qua Salutem obsessis, obsessoribus
ruinam et dedecus comparavit Anno 1705, in Cataloniam
provectus apud obsidionem Barcelonae de Re Militari insigniter
meritus est: Post Urbem captam Girronae et Locorum
adjaceutium Praefectas constitutus Summa Vigilantia et
Virtute belli cas Res administravit: Et cum ex adverso
Barcelona a Duce Andegavensi (Rege Catholico Titulari)
Re-obsessa, et a Rege Carolo 3o defensa esset secum
plurimis Cohortibus in Urbem conjecit adeoque rem Austriacam
periclitautem restituit: Ibi propugnaculi Monjuich
praefecturam suscipiens tamdiu Hostium aggressus sustinuit
douec numero et repetitis couatibus oppressus, animo vel
in articulo mortis invictus florentibus Lauris cumulatus
immaturo AEvo et proprio marte non inultus periit anno
1706, 10mo die Aprilis AEtatis suae 40. CUI JURE
FILIUS EJUS NATU MAXIMUS Posuit e sumptibus propriis
Uxor sua fidissima Domina CATHARINA e gente FORBESIANA
filia unica ARTHURI Comitis de Granard, vice-comitis De
Granard et Hamlin, et Baronis de Clanhu.



Arthur, Earl of Donegall, Viscount Chichester of Carrickfergus, Baron of Belfast, Lieutenant of County Antrim, Governor of the City of Carrickfergus, Commander of the Forces despatched to Spain by Her Most Serene Majesty, Anne, Queen of England, &c.


In the year 1704, when Gibraltar was assailed by the united strength of Spain and France, it was he who introduced into the city a most happy succour, bringing Relief to the besieged and Defeat and Disgrace to the besiegers.

In the year 1705 he sailed to Catalonia and served with distinction at the siege of Barcelona; after the capture of Barcelona he was appointed Governor of Gerona and the adjacent region, and directed operations with the utmost vigilance and energy, and when again Barcelona was besieged by the Duke of Anjou (Titular Catholic King) and was defended by King Charles III, he threw himself with very many of his Companies into the City, and re-established the threatened Austrian position; there undertaking the command of the fort Montjuich, he continued long to hold out against the attacks of the Enemy until, overwhelmed by numbers and repeated assaults, with his spirit unconquerable even in death, covered with glory and not unavenged with his own arm, he fell untimely, in the fortieth year of his age, on the 10th day of April, 1746.

He was succeeded in his paternal estate and titles by Arthur his eldest son. Erected, at her own expense, by his faithful wife, Lady Katherine Forbes, only daughter of Arthur, Earl of Granard, Viscount Granard and Hamlin and Baron of Clanehugh.

The above translation, in which I have received the assistance of an old Inst. schoolfellow and life-long friend, R M. Jones, LL.D. reveals an important historical incident which, apparently, has been hitherto overlooked, viz., that Arthur, 3rd Earl of Donegall, assisted in capturing Gibraltar, "bringing relief to the besieged and Defeat and Disgrace to the besiegers".

Fighting ostensibly in the interests of Charles, Archduke of Austria, afterwards King Charles III, he played an honourable and conspicuous part in the capture of Gibraltar, which led to Sir George Rooke, on his own responsibility, hoisting the Union Jack on Calpe, the European Pillar of Hercules, and thereby in the name of Queen Anne taking possession, 24th July, 1704, of what has since remained one of the important outposts of the British Empire. It should not, however, be overlooked that "it is hardly to the honour of England that it was both unprincipled enough to sanction and ratify the occupation, and ungrateful enough to have unrewarded the General to whose unscrupulous patriotism the acquisition was due." Autres temps, autres moeurs.


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