‘East Belfast Big Houses Vol.2’ will be on sale in October 2021. It is a follow up to ‘East Belfast Big Houses Vol.1’, published in 2018, and continues to investigate the history of several grand mansions and the ‘plump and prosperous villas’ of East Belfast plus the families that lived in them. As the years pass by, I am getting nostalgic and have widened out my research to include some big houses in North Belfast, where I spent my early years, and South Belfast, where I went to school. (Location of Big Houses on map of Belfast). Some extracts follow.
The ivy-clad ‘Knocknagoney House’ was built in 1880 was once described as ‘a massive Victorian essay in red brick…ostentatious in its position overlooking Belfast Lough’. It replaced a grand 18th century house called ‘Clifden’ and was situated in a huge 25-acre demesne. The home of the McCance family for many years, the site became the location of Orchard Caravans in the 1950s and the Windsor Hotel in the 1960s. The PSNI now occupy the house and the grounds are the site of a Tesco superstore.
Not far away from Knocknagoney, a dumper truck is on the building site with ‘Norwood Tower’ in the background shortly before it was demolished in the late 1950s. The tower is in the fashionable Scottish Baronial Revival style. It resembles Scrabo Tower and Helen’s Tower at Clandeboye, which were both constructed during the same 1850s period as Norwood Tower. James Burnett was the butler at Norwood Tower in the 1920s and 1930s. He was head of the household staff and understood the protocol of organising functions involving many grand guests. Here James seems to examining a huge salmon along with two gentlemen who are smoking pipes and they are probably Charles Westbourne Henderson and his elder brother Hugh Trevor Henderson, who owned Norwood Tower.
‘Schomberg’ was an elegant big house located at 306 Belmont Road, opposite Campbell College. It was built in 1884 and situated in prestigious Strandtown not far from other mansions belonging to the ‘merchant princes’ of the late Victorian era. Schomberg was originally the family home of leading linen-manufacturer William Quartus Ewart and his wife Mary (nee Heard) and remained in Ewart family ownership until the late 1930s when it became a children’s home. It was demolished in the 1970s. What about the history of the Schomberg name? Con Auld helpfully explains in ‘Holywood, Then and Now’ In the early summer of 1689 the Duke of Schomberg’s army marched along King William’s Road to the south of Holywood. An interesting repository for the bones of Williamite soldiers lies further along the Old Holywood Road at the Belmont Road junction. When a mansion house was built on the adjoining site, it was given the name ‘Schomberg’, to commemorate the great General (above) himself’.
This great photograph of an ivy-clad ‘Brooklyn’, now PSNI headquarters, is dated 14th September 1954. The house was built in the 1860s and became the home of coal merchant, Belfast City councillor and member of Knock Methodist Church, William Hinde (above). It was home to various members of the Morton / McClure / Melville families until occupied by the military during WW2. The British army were getting ready for action with the 8th Army in North Africa during 1943. The Americans prepared for D-Day in 1944 and in 1945 Brooklyn was converted to a POW camp for German naval officers. It was used as a Civil Defence base in the 1950s before becoming R.U.C. headquarters in 1962.
Not far from my old school Methody, two young ladies are posting a letter at the entrance to ‘Lennoxvale’ on Malone Road. There is still a post box (although a more modern version) at this site in 2021. The prestigious address of 5 Lennoxvale as it looked in the 1920s. Paul Larmour notes that 5 Lennoxvale was designed by architects Young & Mackenzie in 1875: ‘A large two-story stuccoed Italianate house with hipped roofs on bracketed eaves’. The resident in the 1920s was Robert G. Glendinning of William Coates & Son Ltd, ‘plumbers, gas, electric fitters and electro-platers’. Could that be Robert G. Glendinning standing in the doorway and conversing with the chauffeur who is sitting behind the wheel of this grand car?