Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Wheatfield Gardens

In a letter to the Belfast Telegraph (4 November 1910), Rev John Gailey, minister of Ballysillan Presbyterian Church, noted that 'a new avenue - Wheatfield Avenue - was opened up a short time ago, and already five new detached residences have been built.' 
The 1910 Belfast and Ulster Street Directory includes Wheatfield Avenue, with Cahereen (Hugh O'Neill, publican) and Freeman William Archer, clerk, on the right hand side and Claremount (A Kinkead, traveller) and a vacant house on the left hand side.

By 1912 the name had changed to Wheatfield Gardens and seven residents of Wheatfield Gardens signed the Ulster Covenant:
  1. Alfred H Kinkead of Claremount signed in the Old Town Hall.
  2. Andrew Kinkead of Wheatfield Gardens, Ballysillan, signed in Ligoniel Orange Hall
  3. George W Kinkead of Claremount signed in the City Hall
  4. William McVicker of 2 Wheatfield Gardens signed in the Old Town Hall
  5. Samuel Robert Boyd of 6 Wheatfield Gardens signed in Woodvale Presbyterian Church
  6. James Hanna of 8 Wheatfield Gardens signed in the City Hall
  7. Robert Stevenson of Wheatfield Gardens, Ballysillan, signed in the Old Town Hall
Three members of the Kinkead family signed the Covenant.  They were a Presbyterian family and the father, Andrew James Kinkead (44), was a manufacturing chemist who came to Belfast from county Armagh.  His son George Wilfred Kinkead (17) was an apprentice manufacturing chemist and the other signatory was Alfred Harper Kinkead, who was just 14 years old and therefore too young to sign the Covenant.  It is interesting to see that the three members of the family, the father and the two sons, signed in different places.  Did Alfred, who was too young, not want his father and his brother to know that he had signed?

Andrew Francis Kinkead of 62 Whiterock Street Liverpool also signed in Ligoniel Orange Hall and signed on the same sheet as Andrew Kinkead and directly below him.  He had probably travelled home from Liverpool especially to sign the Covenant and was probably related to the family although according to the 1911 census he could not have been a son.

The firm of Kinkead & Co, in Hamilton Place West, off Boundary Street, were manufacturing chemists, drysalters, mill furnishers, oil merchants and importers.

By the time of the 1915 Belfast and Ulster Street Directory more houses had been built in Wheatfield Gardens.
On the right hand side the houses and their occupants were Lann Roe (Hugh O'Neill, publican), Cahereen (Robert Stevenson, engineer), 5 and 7 appear to have been semi-detached houses (Joseph Donohoe, clerk, and W McKnight, plasterer) and Edenvale (Richard Hay, postal official). 
On the left hand side there were Glenmurray (William Murray), Claremont and 4 and 6 (A Kinkead, traveller, and Samuel R Boyd, contractor), Lauriston, a terrace of three houses numbered 8, 10 and 12, Dunelm (William McVicker, house-builder), Iona (Mrs McVicker), Roseneath (John A Dunn) and Cill-na-Hard (David Waugh, linen manufacturer and finisher).

1918 Street Directory

Lann Roe (Hugh O'Neill, publican), Cahereen (Robert Stevenson, engineer), 5 (Freeman William Archer, county court clerk), 7 (W McKnight, plasterer) and Edenvale (Richard Hay, postal official).

2 Monellan (J J Houston), 4 Claremount (Mrs Kinkead), 6 (Samuel R Boyd, contractor), 8 (J E McIlroy, merchant), 10 (Miss McHarry), 12 (Henry M Wilson of Wilson & Campbell, valuator), Dunelm (W McVicker, builder and contractor), Iona (Mrs McVicker), Roseneath (Jos Coulter, weaving factory manager), Cill-na-Hard (David Waugh, linen manufacturer and finsher).
Cahereen is still there with the name above the front door.
Lann Roe
Edenvale - townland in county Antrim
Monellan - a mansion in Killygrdon, county Donegal
Claremont - a mansion in Surrey
Lauriston - 16th century tower house, with 19th century extension, in Edinburgh
Iona - island off the coast of Scotland
Roseneath - a village in Scotland

Monday, 26 May 2014

Ligoniel Rifle Club

The Ligoniel Rifle Club won the indoor league in 1914-1915 and the photograph on the left shows some of the winning team.

The man sitting behind the winners' shield was Robert James Adgey (1872-1957), a Belfast pawn-broker and gun-dealer, who was associated with Major Fred Crawford in the arming of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

He later recorded his memoirs in the book Arming the Ulster Volunteers 1914.

Adgey owned a pawn-broker's business at Peter's Hill and at the 1911 census he lived at Ballymagarry, in the Woodvale area, with his parents and younger brother.  His father, an elderly retired farmer, was suffering from dementia or some other form of mental illness.  Previously the family had lived for some years at 36 Dover Street but they moved to Ballymagarry around 1908.

The photograph of the Ligoniel Rifle Club appears to have been taken in a garden, possibly at Ligoniel, but there is currently no other information about the rifle club, of which there were many in Ulster at that time.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A senior Ballysillan Orangewoman - Minnie Turkington

The Belfast Telegraph (3 January 1939) reported the death of Mrs Mary A (Minnie) Turkington of Glenside Parade at Ballysillan.  She was the widow of James A Turkington and she died on 31 December 1938 in the Royal Victoria Hospital.

According to the report she was 'prominently identified with the Women's Orange Order for the past 21 years.'

The Orange Women's Association began in 1887 when a body of women with strong unionist views formed themselves into a body to work together for the promotion of Protestantism and the defence of the Union.  The founder was the wife of Colonel Edward Saunderson, the Conservative MP for North Armagh and himself a senior Orangeman.  The Association was authorised by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland in December 1887 and it flourished for a time but eventually ceased to function.  Then in 1911, with the consent of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Mrs R H Johnston of Bawnboy House in county Cavan undertook to reissue warrants.  That new start marked the origin of the Women's Orange movement of today.

The event that prompted this re-formation of the women's movement was the promulgation in 1911 by the Roman Catholic Church of the Ne Temere decree.  This decree declared that a marriage between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant was only valid in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church if it was performed by a Roman Catholic priest.  The decree became a matter of much public attention when a young Presbyterian girl in Belfast, who had married a Roman Catholic man named McCann, refused to be remarried in a Roman Catholic chapel.  The result was that her two children were kidnapped.  Protest meetings were held in Belfast and there was a very large meeting in the Presbyterian Assembly at which Bishop Crozier spoke.

Mrs Johnston read about the case in the newspapers and felt that a revived Women's Orange Association would be an influence against mixed marriages and the effects of Ne Temere.  She called a meeting in 12 Rutland Square, Dublin. in February 1912 and three warrants were issued.  The first went to Mrs W Bridgett to meet in Sandy Row Orange Hall, the second went to a lodge at Ballymacarrett and the third to a lodge in Kingstown, county Dublin.

The Ligoniel Women's LOL No 15 was formed in the summer of 1917 and Minnie Turkington was a foundation member.  She was a prominent member of the lodge and was WM for fourteen years.

Minnie Turkington was also Deputy Grand Mistress of the Grand Loyal Association of Orangewomen of Ireland, Deputy Grand Mistress of the City of Belfast and a Past District Mistress of No 4 District of the Association of Loyal Orangewomen of Ireland.  Minnie Turkington was also superintendent of the Association of Junior Orangewomen of Ireland, Lodge No 20.  Women's Orangeism, both senior and junior, was therefore a major part of her life.

Among the death notices at the time of her death was one from the management committee of Ligoniel Orange Hall, from John Sanderson (chairman) and John Porter (secretary).  John Sanderson was an overlooker who lived in Lavens Drive and John Porter was a clerk, who lived in Leroy Street.

A funeral service was held in St Mark's parish church on the evening of Monday 2 January 1939.

WLOL No 15 had its first meeting on 18 July 1917 and it was officially opened on 8 August 1917.  The officers elected were WM Ruby Kirkwood, DM Mrs Morrison, Secretary Leta Frazer, Treasurer Hester Mann, FC, Annie McCurley, Chaplain Nellie Wallace, Committee: Jean Moore, D Kirkwood, Annie Smyth, Annie Thompson, Cassie Adair, Tylers M J Shaw and Sadie Lynass.

Near the end of the year Sister Mrs Morrison, later Mrs Turkington, became W Mistress when the WM, Sister Ruby Kirkwood, went overseas.  She remained in the chair for fourteen years and her death at the end of 1938 was a great loss to the Orange community.

[The woman who revived the Women's Orange Association was Mrs R H Johnston of Bawnboy House in county Cavan and a Geraldine I M Johnston, of Bawnboy House, Cavan West, and Cor Le Grange, Gloucester, signed the Women's Declaration at Templeport Church and parochial hall in Bawnboy (Brackley) in 1912.  R H Johnston of Bawnboy House signed the Ulster Covenant at the same venue.]

Monday, 19 May 2014

Marmount Gardens

For many years Mary and I lived in Marmount Gardens, off the Oldpark Road  The first houses must have been built around 1938, just before the Second World War, and I was interested then to see an advertisement in the Belfast Telegraph (13 January 1939) for 'new semi-detached villas' in Marmount Gardens.

The deposit was just £20 and then the buyer paid 18s 9d per week, including repayments, ground rent and taxes.

Prospective buyers were to contact Thomas Henderson & Co, rent and estate agents, at 53 High Street.

By 1943 much of the street was built up but sites 1 to 11 were still vacant and the first house on that side of the street was 13, the house in which I later lived.

On the other side 2a was the confectionery shop owned by W T Polley, who lived at number 10.

Joanmount was named by the developer Sir William Frederick Neill (1889-1960) who named it after his daughter Joan.  So who was Marmount named after?  Well it was either his daughter, whose name was Margaret Joan, or his wife whose name was Margaret.

W F Neill married Margaret Marshall (c1890-1957).  She died on 19 January 1957 and at the time of death the couple were living at 21 Broomhill Park.  William and Margaret Neill were buried in Belfast City Cemetery and also buried there was a daughter Margaret Joan Neill, who died on 23 April 1933 at the age of 6 years and 3 months.

Since both Marmount and Joanmount were built in the 1930s it is probable that both were named after the little girl who had died in 1933.

[I am grateful to Jacqueline Nicholson for the additional information about W F Neill's family.]

Monday, 12 May 2014

Robert James Adgey

Robert James Adgey (1872-1957) was one of the key figures in the unionist operation to arm the Ulster Volunteer Force during the 3rd home rule crisis.  He was a pawnbroker, with a business at 97 Peter's Hill, and he collaborated closely with Major Fred Crawford in importing weapons and ammunition.

Afterwards he wrote Arming the Ulster Volunteers 1914 and in this he described his family background, including some connections with Ballysillan.

I was born in County Antrim in the townland of Ballykennedy, about 10 miles from Belfast, where my father, Robert James Adgey Senior, who was a farmer, came to live in Belfast (Shankill Ward) in the year 1881.  He commenced business in Riga Street, where he kept a number of milk cows and I had to learn to milk at an early age.
In the summer time the cows were put out to graze and I had to go in the milk cart out to the fields.  My father had the grazing of those fields belonging to Ferguson's old Bleach Green from Ardoyne up to opposite Wheatfield House on the Crumlin Road.  He had also several fields for grazing from Mr George Andrews of Ardoyne.  Going to it we had to pass down Ardoyne Village; at that time the old hand-loom factory  was in full operation where work commenced at 6 o'clock in the morning.  We passed through the village about 5.30 when the people were just going to their work.
This reminds us that much of Ballysillan remained rural right through to the end of the 19th century.

We also learn that the old bleach-green of the Ferguson family was roughly the site now occupied by the Abbeydale estate

Friday, 9 May 2014

Ritchie Memorial Flute Band

Ulster Tower
One reader of this blog reminded me of the Ritchie Memorial Flute Band at Ligoniel and I understand that it was named after a Benjamin Ritchie.  That set me looking on the internet in search of answers to two questions.  When was the band on the road and who was the Ritchie in the name of the band?

The band was certainly in existence in the 1950s and 1960s because it won the melody section of the North of Ireland Band Association flute band competition in 1950, 1952, 1961 and 1962.

A reader of the blog indicated that it was named after a Benjamin Ritchie, who lived at Ligoniel, and that pointed me towards finding out more about Benjamin Ritchie.

Benjamin was born in Lisburn and was the son of Alexander Ritchie, who died on 31 January 1903 aged 49 and Margaret A Ritchie, who died on 8 January 1922 aged 69. He was educated at Friends School in Lisburn but some years later the family moved to Ligoniel.

He was recorded in the 1911 census as living at Ligoniel Road with his mother Margaret, who was a widow, 57 years of age and a native of county Monaghan.  She had seven children but only two were living at home. His sister Sarah Ritchie was 36 and was a yarn reeler in a flax mill. Benjamin was 24 years of age and a yarn bundler in a flax mill.  The family were Presbyterians.

Benjamin Ritchie was a very active member of the Orange and Black institutions and he served for some years as treasurer of Red Cross RBP No 210.  In September 1912 he signed the Ulster Covenant at the City Hall and gave his address as 5 Kathleen Terrace.  However the report of the City of Belfast Grand Black Chapter gave his address as 4 Kathleen Terrace.

At the start of the First World War he enlisted in the army in Belfast and served in the 15th battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, which was part of the 36th (Ulster) Division.  This battalion was formed in September 1914  from the North Belfast battalion of the UVF and trained at Ballykinlar.   Like so many other young Ulstermen, Rifleman Benjamin Ritchie was killed in action on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  He was 30 years of age.

His older brother Alexander Ritchie, who was named after their father, must have emigrated from Ulster to Canada for he was killed in action in Belgium  on 13 March 1916, aged 32, while serving in the Central  Ontario Regiment of the Canadian Infantry.

The family headstone at Derriaghy parish church graveyard commemorates the deaths of the two brothers and also commemorates Henry Ritchie who died on 3 November 1920 in Coatbridge in Scotland, aged 44; John Ritchie, who died in Winnipeg, Canada; and Sarah Ritchie, who died on 7 February 1951.

Two members of this family emigrated from Ulster to Canada early in the 20th century and Canada was indeed a popular destination for Ulster emigrants.  Coatbridge also attracted a considerable number of Ulster folk and my mother was born in Coatbridge of Ulster parents.

But when was the Ritchie Memorial Band formed, how long did it remain on the road and what other information or photographs are available?

St Mark's parish church, Ballysillan

Interior of St Mark's parish church
In the middle of the 19th century the Church of Ireland decided to established a new parish at Ballysillan.  Rev Abraham McCausland was appointed in February 1852 to  established the new parish.  He took up residence in Clearstream Cottage and held Sunday morning services in Ligoniel schoolroom.  A congregation was gathered and then the next step was to build a parish church.

A site on the Ligoniel Road was provided free of charge by Mrs Elizabeth May of Rockport and she laid the foundation stone of St Mark's parish church on 25 May 1854.  The building is attributed to the architect Charles Lanyon, who designed so many of Belfast's finest buildings. but it was probably the work of his then assistant W H Lynn and the builder was James Carlisle.  This was an early Gothic Revival church and was laid out with the nave gable facing the road.  It took two years to build the church and it was consecrated on 1 May 1856 by Bishop Robert Knox.  At that stage it could accommodate 180 worshippers.

The original tower is still undisturbed but the church was re-oriented and enlarged in High Victorian manner with the addition in 1866 of a red stone banded nave and polygonal chancel by W H Lynn.  With the new work running at right angles to the original church the earlier nave then became the south transept.

Finally in 1885-6 the new nave and north transept were heightened, an organ chamber was added and the wooden baptistery screen was erected.  This was the third phase of building and the work was overseen by the architect James J Phillips.  By then the church could accommodate a congregation of 500.

The first two ministers stayed for only short periods of time but the third minister Rev James Marshall (1826-1909) was licensed on 24 June 1856,  and remained until 1884.  He was a son of Rev James Marshall, who was minister of Fannet Presbyterian Church in county Donegal from 1806 to 1826, and his wife Sarah Cunningham.  His grandfather Samuel Marshall was a farmer.  After leaving St Mark's in 1884 he emigrated from Ulster to New Zealand and was minister at Te Aroha, Auckland, from 1885 to 1889 and of Ellerslie, Auckland, from 1889 to 1892.  During his time in St Mark's, James Marshall was one of the twenty-three founder members of Ligoniel True Blues LOL No 1932 when it was formed in 1872.

St Mark's National School was built in the grounds of the church and the foundation stone was laid in November 1874 with the official opening in December 1875.  A rectory and a residence for the schoolmaster were also built in the grounds.

In 1887 there were 315 children in the school, which could accommodate 342 pupils, who ranged from infants through to seventh standard.
The Ewart family, who lived nearby in Glenbank House, had a strong association with St Mark's and there are a number of Ewart memorials in the church.

In 1966 the minor hall was built and named in memory of Gerald Reid, manager of Glenbank Bleaching Green.  Also in that year the school buildings reverted to the parish when Ligoniel Primary School was opened.

Back in 1952 Archdeacon William A Macourt, a former minister of the congregation, wrote The First Hundred Years: being a history of St Mark's Parish Church, Ballysillan, Belfast.  Some years later a second edition was published under the title A Short History of Parish Church of St Mark, Ballysillan Belfast.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Ballysillan LOL 1891

The Orange Order was founded in county Armagh in 1795 and the first Orange lodge in Belfast was formed in 1796.
However Ballysillan was a largely rural area until the start of the 20th century and it was well into the 19th century before an Orange lodge was formed in the area.

On 5 September 1865 the County Grand Lodge of Belfast authorised John Armstrong, James Gray, James Crothers, James McClean, Samuel Young, Thomas Mitchell, Thomas Riddell, William Armstrong and William Lutton to form a lodge that would be named Ballysillan LOL 1891.  The lodge was attached to number 3 district.
It is believed that the lodge originally met in the Cat-Cairn Quarry at Ligoniel and that for a number of years the meetings were held in a rear room of Squire's Hill Tavern, Upper Ballysillan.
The first Orange Hall at Ligoniel was built by the lodge in 1868 and on the afternoon of Sunday 27 September 1868 Rev Henry Henderson preached a sermon in Ballysillan Presbyterian Church in connection with 'the proposed Protestant Hall' at Ligoniel.  Henderson was minister of 1st Holywood Presbyterian Church and wrote in the News-Letter under the pseudonym Ulster-Scot.  His text was Jude 3 and his subject was The Religious Duties of Protestants at this Crisis.  There was a large attendance and £60 was raised for the hall, with the famous Orangeman William Johnston of Ballykilbeg being one of the collectors.

Today Ballysillan LOL 1891 is approaching its 150th anniversary.  There may well have been and almost certainly were individual Orangemen in the area before that but the first Orange lodge was organised almost 150 years ago.


Monday, 5 May 2014

Wheatfield House (2) - the link to the 36th (Ulster) Division

In 1901 Wheatfield House was occupied by Rev D K Mitchell, minister of Crumlin Road Presbyterian Church but within a few years it was the home of Charles Owen Slacke (1872-1916), owner of Slacke & Co in Ashton Street.  The gate-lodge was occupied by James Mullan, the gardener.

Charles Owen Slacke was born into a Protestant family in county Tipperary in 1872.  He was the eldest son of Sir Owen Randal Slacke CB (1837-1910), an officer in the 10th Hussars, and his wife Katherine Anne Lanyon, a daughter of Sir Charles Lanyon.  His grandfather was at one time rector of Newcastle.  The family were descended from a Captain William Slacke who came from Derbyshire and settled at Ballinamore, county Leitrim, in the decade after the Battle of the Boyne.

Charles was educated at the College of St Columba and on 14 June 1902 he married Kate Dixon, daughter of Sir Daniel Dixon, a businessman and Ulster Unionist politician.  After their marriage they lived at Wheatfield House.

Slacke was a businessman with premises at 16-18 Ashton Street and his company manufactured galvanised hollowware. The family were members of the Church of Ireland and according to the 1911 census they had four servants, of whom three were Roman Catholics.

Charles Slacke was an Orangeman and in 1909-10 he was WM of Eldon LOL No 7, the premier Orange lodge in Belfast, whose members included Sir James Craig and Major Fred Crawford.  Their are portraits of all the Past Masters of the lodge in the Eldon Room in Clifton Street Orange Hall and among them is one of Slacke.

His wife Kate was in London on Ulster Day in 1912 and she signed the Women's Declaration at Westminster but there is no record in the PRONI archives of Charles signing the Ulster covenant. 

Nevertheless he was a committed Ulster Unionist and Orangeman and he joined the Ulster Volunteer Force, to oppose home rule.  When Sir Edward Carson inspected the Belfast Division of the UVF at Balmoral on 27 September 1913, Slacke commanded the Second Battalion of the North Belfast Regiment. 
He became a captain in the 14th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, in the 36th (Ulster) Division.  This unit was formed from the Young Citizen Volunteers, which had been absorbed into the UVF.

On 7 May 1915 the YCV battalion moved off from their base and arrived that evening at Wheatfield estate, where they spent the night.  There they cleaned up and prepared for a grand parade of the entire 36th (Ulster) Division in Belfast the following day.  After an inspection by Major General Sir Hugh McCalmont at Malone, the Ulster Division marched to the City Hall.
Charles Slacke was killed at Thiepval on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, while leading his company into action and he was buried in Connaught Cemetery (Grave IV.A.9)
His widow Kate placed a memorial to him in St John's parish church in Newcastle, where his grandfather had been minister, and he is also listed on the Newcastle war memorial, on the family gravestone in Belfast City Cemetery (G 631/2) and on a war memorial in Malone Golf club of which he had been a member.

Having lost her husband in the war it is not surprising that Kate Slacke is listed among the donors to the Field of Battle Monument for the Fallen of the Ulster Division.
Kate lived on at Wheatfield House for a time and is listed at that address in the 1918 Belfast and Ulster Street Directory but the 1921-22 directory has Thomas R Dixon, a malster and corn merchant, at Wheatfield and J Kelly, gardener, at Wheatfield Lodge.  Dixon had business premises in Ashton Street, the same street as Slacke's business, and also in Banbridge.  However Dixon lived in the house for only a short time and soon afterwards it passed into other hands.

The next stage of the Wheatfield House story will come in a third post.

The newspaper photographs I have used were provided by Nigel Henderson, creator of the Great War Belfast Newspapers facebook page. www.facebook.com/greatwarbelfastnewspapers

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Ballysillan - the local shops

Shops are an important part of any community and the 1943 Belfast Street Directory lists the following shops on the Ballysillan Road and the top of the Oldpark Road.

These were the days before supermarkets and shopping centres and a time when very few people had a car.  As a result they shopped locally and there were many small grocery shops, butchers and newsagents.

The 1943 street directory records four shops on the Ballysillan Road, opposite Oldpark Road; 234 Bulloch's lending library; 234a Marigold bakery; 236 Mrs E Burns, draper; and 236a James T McKay, butcher.

There were also six shops at the top of the Oldpark Road: 685 J Moreland, grocer; 687 vacant; 689 J Irwin, flasher; 691 vacant; 693 Mrs M Crawford, grocer; and 695 J Ferris, boot repairer.

There were two shops at the top of Joanmount Gardens: 417 W T Fitzgerald, newsagent; and 419-421 McCorkell Brothers, grocers.

William Lennon, known to children as 'Pop Lennon', had a newsagent's shop at the bottom of Silverstream Park and S Moore had a newsagent's shop on the Oldpark Road, at the corner with Joanmount Park.  The shop was close to Carr's Glen primary school and was regular stop for children who wanted to know what you could get for a penny.  The shop window at Mr Moore's was also used by children to perform the 'Harry Worth' illusion as seen on TV.

In Glenside Parade, behind Ballysillan Presbyterian Church, were the Glenside Cash Stores.

The Co-operative store at the bottom of Ballysillan Park came later and so it seems did the Hillcrest Stores.

But what was Bulloch's lending library?

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Wheatfield House (1)

Originally the name Wheatfield was associated with a large house and estate and down through the years the residents included several prominent industrialists and a UVF officer who went on to serve in the 36th (Ulster) Division and was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  Later it became a Roman Catholic retreat and then it was demolished to make way for St Gabriel's Boys School.

The house has long gone, to be replaced by new housing developments, but the name survives in the names of a number of streets and in the name of Wheatfield Primary School.
When George Benn wrote The History of the Town of Belfast in 1823 he recorded the residents of two 'country seats' in the Ballysillan area and named the principal country residence as Wheatfield, the home of James Blair.  Pigot's Directory of 1824 also names the owner of Wheatfield as James Blair.

The reference to 'country seats' reminds us that Ballysillan was a rural area at that time and it remained so until the early 20th century.
Samuel Lewis produced a Topographical Dictionary of Ireland in 1837 and in it he listed 'the gentlemen's seats in the parish' which were 'most conspicuous for their elegance'.  They included 'Wheatfield, the residence of J Blair'. 

From these two early sources we see that Wheatfield was the home of James Blair, that it was described as a gentleman's country seat and that it was particularly elegant.  This was a 'large and beautifully situated dwelling house together with 26 acres of land'.

Blair was a wealthy man with a large estate and in 1837 he was able to provide a site for the building of Ballysillan Presbyterian Church.
In 1852 the Ewarts opened the Glenbank Bleachworks and they played a prominent role in the linen industry, both at Ligoniel and the Crumlin Road.  William Ewart senior lived at Glenbank, overlooking the bleach green, and his son William lived down at Wheatfield.  The Ewarts built up a linen empire and became the largest linen manufacturing company in the late nineteenth century industrial world.
The 1861 Belfast Street Directory included a 'village directory' and one of these was for 'Ardoyne, Ligoniel etc.'  This recorded William Ewart senior at Glenbank and William Ewart junior at Wheatfield.

This was a substantial estate and it was common for such estates to have a gate-lodge.  In 1876 a new gate-lodge was built at Wheatfield for E Blair.  This was designed by the Belfast architects Young & MacKenzie and replaced an earlier lodge that was still there in 1862.

The next part of the Wheatfield House story will follow in a second post.