(This article first appeared in Volume 5 of The Glynns in 1977, it is presented here with added Hyperlinks and photographs)
The Marchioness of Londonderry inherited her Carnlough Estate on the death of her mother, the Countess of Antrim, in 1834.
The Marchioness did not begin to develop this estate till ten years later on account of her being abroad with her husband. During the following twenty years, thanks to her enterprise, a flourishing export industry grew up in Carnlough – based on its local limestone. This did not supplant its farmer-fisherman economy, but rather enhanced it over the succeeding century.
Frances Anne Vane,
Marchioness of Londonderry Portrait (1831)
Charles William Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry KG, GCB, GCH, PC ( 1778 – 1854)
Both the Marquis and the Marchioness of Londonderry possessed extensive collieries in the County of Durham, where they nominally resided. These they fully developed, linking them by rail with Seaham Harbour, which they specially built for the export of their coals. They were wholly conversant with the recently established Cleveland iron smelting industry which purchased great quantities of coal from them. So they were alive to the fact that the fast growing Clyde-side furnaces would require increasing amounts of limestone flux for their smelting. It was at the capture of this market that their Carnlough scheme was aimed.
In October 1850 the Marquis acquired the services of Richard Wilson1 as his Carnlough agent in succession to John Lanktree.
Richard Wilson, Londonderry Agent at Carnlough
Wilson wrote regularly, first to his Lordship until his death in 1854, and then to the Marchioness until she died in 1865, reporting each stage of progress in their development scheme. He retained the Marchioness’ confidence throughout, and by special provision in her will, continued as agent after her death. It is on these letters that the following account is based 2.
The scheme fell into two phases. Buildings erected during the first, under the direction of John Lanktree, included Garron Tower3
Coast Guard Cottage, Coast Road
and in Carnlough the Londonderry Arms Hotel and the school opposite
The Londonderry Arms
Buildings erected during the second phase, under the direction of Richard Wilson, included the the Arches and the railway down from the quarry, Stony Hill House, the Town Hall, the Lime Kilns, two houses in High Street and finally Herbert Street: built roughly that order. An account of the first phase can be found in “The Glynns” Vol. III, pages 22-26, but it is with the second phase that this article is primarily concerned.
The Harbour, Arches, Railway and Quarry
Carnlough Harbour (Present Day)
Carnlough Harbour (circa 1854)
These formed the heart of the whole scheme. Though the Marquis played a dominant role in their planning, his death in March 1854 left their completion in the able hands of his widow, in her fifty-fifth year.4
The Marquess of Londonderry (1830) & The Marchioness of Londonderry (1842)
Limestone had been shipped from Carnlough for some time, but the trade was small, and declining. It was for this purpose that Gibbons5 had built his pier. There had been a ‘hurry’, or gravitational inclined plane at the quarry to assist in bringing down stone to the head of the Croft or Gortin Road as it was then called. From there it came on to the pier by cart. Of the pier, Lieut. John Chaytor wrote in 1832, “There is a quay at the north east end of the town which has been for some yeans in a state of dilapidation. Small craft from 15 to 20 tons can come in here,” and he added, “Some are in the habit of shipping limestone to Scotland where they barter it for coal . . . but not to such an extent as in the town and neighbourhood of Glenarm.7 Vessels calling at Glenarm, however, had to stand out in the bay and be loaded by lighter. The new projected Carnlough Harbour would allow ships to enter a basin which would not only offer them protection in times of storm, but would permit their being loaded direct from trucks, thereby ensuring a speedy turnaround.
Carnlough Harbour (with access to Bridge)
The trucks would travel the entire distance (3/4 mile) from the quarry to the harbour by inclined plane, the heavy loaded wagons drawing up the empties by steel cable, for replenishment. On reaching the shoots at the quay, the full trucks would be filled manually and their contents sent tumbling down into the waiting vessels. Thus lighterage and horse-drawing would be dispensed with, resulting in an expected sizeable profit. Such was the essence of the scheme. It was to suffer many setbacks however, before it became a reality.
Work on the Harbour began late in 1853. On the 8th November, Wilson wrote, “I have got a number of barrows and will have tools ready to commence opening on Monday.” Though Gibbons’ north pier was “built of loose stone”, it was retained to protect the excavations from the north easterly gales. Hunt, the engineer from Seaham in change of the operation, raised the sea wall on it for this purpose. While the basin was being excavated, masons were building the South Pier on which the railway would run out. Another gang was at work on the Arches, and yet another on the railway itself. In order that a. successful inclined plane might be made over the whole distance, a cutting 200 yards long involving the removal of some 25,000 cubic yards of earth and rock, had to be made. This material had then had to be built up into two long embankments, one at either end of the cutting. To facilitate the work, and that of removing waste from the harbour basin, Hunt had lengths of prefabricated rail sent over from England, together with a number of wagon bogies. The wagons themselves he built locally, and he purchased sleepers for the railway at Drumnasole for £40. In all, some 40 — 50 men were employed, and Wilson received £200 a month to cover all costs.
The Arches, Carnlough
Exactly nine months after the work first began he wrote, “I have this day loaded a vessel of Limestone from the end of the new quay. I had the stone brought down from the quarries by carts, but it will not pay to do so.” (8.8.54). The shipping of this load brought an immediate order from the recipients. Messrs. Tennent of Glasgow for 10,000 tons of stone.
As yet the basin was inaccessible to shipping. The deeper the excavation, the more difficult became the work. Wilson eagerly awaited the arrival of a steam engine from Seaham which would both draw wagons out of the basin and drive pumps to keep it dry. Finally it reached Red Bay in January 1855, having been shipped from Campbeltown. A month later Wilson reported that they were “now able with the engine to take out 240 to 250 tons of earth during the day.” (26.2.55) He had converted an old smack and.used it as a lighter to carry the waste material out to sea, where it was dumped.
In the same letter however, he reported, having struck “a panel of solid rock” [at the harbour entrance.8 This was to prove major obstacle, and it was some years before it could be removed and the basin rendered fully operational. By the end of 1855 ships could enter the basin, but only those drawing less than eight feet of water would clear the entrance. Thus they could only partially load using the shoots in the basin, and had to stand out in the bay to take on the remainder their cargo from lighters. Nor could loaded vessels enter to discharge. Writing early in 1856, Wilson reported that a ship bringing in coal had foundered at the harbour entrance. It was pulled off “by sheer force” and laid up on the beach to be repaired. “Nothing has a worse effect in preventing vessels coming here than a case of this kind happening,” he wrote, begging her Ladyship to send the dredger at Seaham via the Caledonian Canal. “Once here,” he assured her, “a fortnight would do all that was necessary.” (26.2.56). But it was not sent; and Wilson had to wait for more than three years before one eventually arrived. During this time ships were obliged to continue loading by lighter.
Nor was the railway working as planned. Only on the upper part could the loaded trucks pull up the empties, so that horse-drawing was still necessary on the lower. The Marchioness sent over Robert Watson, another engineer from Seaham, to see what he could do. He arrived in March 1856, and two months later Wilson wrote, “I am happy to say Watson has succeeded admirably in making it self acting, superseding the use of Horse work in drawing up the empty wagons.” (9.5.56).
Railway Engine crossing the Arches in Carnlough
A week later he reported that since the beginning of the year he had shipped more than 2,600 tons of Iimestone to Glasgow and that the harbour was full of vessels. “At present there are a thousand tons of shipping in and around the harbour with demand for stone. I cannot procure labourers for quarrying it fast enough,” he complained. (20.5156). Watson was doing all he could to clear the harbour entrance, but then a further problem arose. Wilson had built another lighter to speed up the outside loading and it was found that stones descending the shoots jumped its gunnels into the basin. A “drop” was introduced which allowed the stones to fall below the level of the rails before entering the shoots. This greatly reduced their momentum when arriving on deck, and so prevented their bouncing overboard. But it required almost two years to perfect this method of loading, by which time the kilns were operating and lime as well as stone was being shipped.
Ruins of Lime Mine above Carnlough
Then a sand bar began to develop at the entrance, rendering the harbour again almost useless. “It is really heart-breaking to endure the annoyance of this barrier,” (18.5.58) wrote Wilson, but endure it he had to, for a further fifteen months before a dredger finally arrived. It came from Lough Neagh, and excellent work it did. “The dredger is doing wonders now,” he wrote, “‘actually breaking and bringing up solid rock.”
No sooner was the basin fully accessible than it was rendered useless by yet another misfortune. In February 1860, part of the South Pier carrying the railway and one of the shoots, collapsed into the water. There was a difference of some 30 feet between the top of the pier and the floor of the basin, where the foundations had given way. Watson took charge of the repairs and by October, With the help of divers, he had rebuilt the fallen masonry and cleared the basin of debris.
Early in 1861 Wilson was able to write “Everything belonging to the place is now in good order. Your Ladyship, will not have cause to regret having laid out capital at Carnlough.” (4.2.61). But it was only fourteen months later he reported that “the harbour has filled up nearly two feet since the dredger was at work and we are now obliged to have resource to the old system of shipping outside in lighters.” (23.4.62). It seemed the harbour would never work. Gibbons had built his pier at such an angle that no waves of longer reach than two or three miles could directly strike the old harbour. But his pier lay across the path of the long-shore drift of material ever carried northwards by the tides. Since building the South Pier and enclosing the harbour, this material could no longer escape as hitherto, and so the basin became subject to constant accumulation. The only answer lay in having a dredger permanently on the spot for its continual removal, an acquisition not made till after the Marchioness’ death. Unfortunately, therefore, she never saw her harbour fully operational.
Stony Hill House or Drumalla
This was residence built in 1854 by the Marchioness for her agent. In February of that year Wilson wrote, “The contractor for my house has been busy at Ballymena getting wood cut up so as to be seasoned, making window frames, doors, etc. He is now down here drawing sand, digging foundations and will commence on Monday to quarry stones.” (3.2.54).
In April Wilson reported that “the house at Stony Hill is going on wonderfully, considering the difficulty of procuring people.” (6.4.54). Shortage of labour at particular seasons was a recurring problem for Wilson. By the beginning of June the house was slated. From the 1st October, “the time I came into the house,” he charged rent at £30 per annum. Thereafter little reference is made in the letters to Stony Hill House. It must have been after 1866 that it was renamed, Drumalla.9
It was very much part of the Marchioness’ intention to ameliorate her estate by assisting ‘her farming tenantry to improve their holdings. With this end in view, she envisaged a variety of functions such as lectures, competitions, flower and vegetable shows and an annual dinner which she herself would provide, for all of which a central meeting place or hall would be essential. Such a building is first mentioned in the letters late in 1855 when Wilson wrote to say, “I can have the public room built according to specification for £230, including a main drain,” (2.11.55 ). The latter was necessary because the pipe carrying water from the upper end of the town to the harbour basin was blocked, rendering “the road a complete puddle.” Later in November he reported that “the contractor is now going on with the excavation of the large room opposite the office, and he has the drain made through the School House grounds to carry off the water which flows across the road.” (27.11.55). In his next letter he suggested that, as the single storey building planned would be “so much out of proportion when the other buildings are at their height, and as the extra expense of a two storey building will be but £90”, it would be wiser to invest in the latter.
He enclosed the plan of such a building by which “your Ladyship will perceive there will be two capital stores underneath and the same sized room as already arranged above.” (1.12.55). By the end of July 1856 the Town Hall was built, just in time for her Ladyship’s annual visit. She inaugurated its use that summer by giving the first of her Tenants’ Dinners, which thereafter became an annual event in the village.10 The meal was produced by James McVicker who at that time leased the Londonderry Arms Hotel. It cost her Ladyship 2/- per head, but McVicker found himself in debt as result, and had “so much refuse thrown on his hands” that he declined the contract the following year. By that time the Clock Tower was complete and the clock, which cost £5, “is the in the course of erection.” (6.8.57).
Clock Tower and Clock, Carnlough (right of Picture)
As for the stores below: as early as April ‘56 Wilson had already found a tenant. McAlister, who was purchasing kelp for a customer in Glasgow, would take one at £5 per annum. “I would certainly recommend him to have it, even at this low rent. He has got a vessel in which he takes away limestone and intends purchasing grain in winter”, wrote Wilson, (11.4.56) who was always in favour of diversification.
The Lime Kilns
One of the forms of diversification open to Wilson was the burning of limestone. Burnt lime was then in great demand as a fertiliser.11 This was especially so in inland districts such as the Braid, where farmers had no access to sea wrack. Wilson was anxious to have supplies of lime on sale when the new road up Glencloy should open. This line of road would be easier than that from Glenarm; and, like the Marchioness, he too kept looking over his shoulder in that direction.
It is now we learn, quite incidentally, the name of the contractor who built both the harbour and the town hall. Wilson had an “applicant to rent the old lime kiln near Carnlough for the purpose of burning lime for sale. This would be a means of commencing the trade and bringing parties here for lime.” (1.2.55) The applicant was “Patrick Mahon who has contracted for the new room and who built the harbour.” (7.12.55)12 However, Mahon did not rent the kiln, so Wilson himself began to burn lime in the small kiln on Gibbons’ land.” (17.12.55)13 By keeping careful accounts he soon found that he could sell at a profit. Armed with this knowledge, he urged the Marchioness to build lime kilns as part of her development scheme. She Was hesitant, however. So, striking where he knew it told, Wilson wrote, “At Glenarm I have this day been informed they are delivering 500 lbs of lime a, day. ’Tis also true that Glenarm ships all the stone in boats, that if they depended on this alone the works would not pay: It is the limestone consumption that enables them to carry on the trade . . . picking out the good stone shipment . . . and burning the refuse for lime.” (6.3.56). That did the trick. Lady Londonderry immediately authorised the building of the Carnlough lime kilns. They cost £600, and the railway to them another £577, Watson thought of a plan whereby trucks would be hoisted up to feed the kiln instead of running on an incline, thus saving almost £300.
The tenant who held the mill lower down the Cranny Burn turned awkward. He refused to allow the building to proceed because water taken from the Burn for the kilns could not be returned to it upstream of where the layd ran off to his mill. The Rev. John Wilson, who was agent for the landlord, Mr. Orr of Ballymena dealt with him very summarily winning the only expression of approbation granted him throughout the letters. “To give the Rev. Mr. Wilson his due,” wrote Richard Wilson, “I must say he has taken a very decided step with this man and has told him plainly that if he persists in giving further inconvenience, he had Mr. Orr’s authority to turn him out of the land.” (4.3.57). Otherwise, the two Wilsons appear to have had very little use for each other.
But Richard Wilson was generous in his praise of Watson, who had done so much to ensure the smooth working of the whole concern. In April ’57 pipes leading water to the kilns were being laid, and by June the kilns were “at their height and Watson is busy erecting the platform about 15 feet by which the wagons will be raised to the top of the kilns.” (1.6.57) “What Watson does, he does it well” wrote Wilson, “and I have no hesitation in saying that the lime kilns as now built exhibit an appearance of workmanship rarely to be met with.” (5.6.57). This is an assessment endorsed by Mr. C. E. B. Brett14 and one which we ourselves would confirm.
Lime burning began in August, 1857. Soon the demand was so great a further two kilns had to be built, making five in all. Keeping and collecting so many small local accounts, in addition to having supplies on-hand for shipping, was too much for Wilson, and he began to look for a manager to relieve him of the burden. Watson was approached, but he was anxious to return to his wife and family in England. Eventually in May 1860 Richard Halloran15 accepted the job at a salary of £150 a year. Four years Later Halloran took over the whole concern, quarries and all, on a lease as from 1st February 1864, at an annual rent of £500.
Houses in High Herbert Street
Richard Wilson’s efforts to hurry forward on the Marchioness’ various building projects had been repeatedly frustrated by the scarcity of labour. This was because the only supply of labour came from the local farming community. Almost everyone in the district was a farmer, so that when sowing time came they were all away sowing, and when harvest time came they were all away harvesting; and at hay-making time, turf cutting time, turf drawing or on fair days; and with them went their horses, then the only means of transport. Moreover, when the weather was good for building it was also good for farming; and; conversely, when the weather was bad for farming and labour was available, it could not be used for building. To overcome this difficulty, Wilson proposed to build houses for labourers so that there would be some workers in the district who were not entirely dependent on farming for the roofs over their heads.
He began by rebuilding two old houses Which may between Gibbons’ house in the High Street and what is now Herbert Street. He first mentioned these in June ’57 and reported their completion in November. “The contractor has finished the two houses.” he wrote,“ “and has commenced the row of these behind the planting, the foundations of which are down and the walls about a foot above the surface.” (11.11.57). There were ten of these i.e. one side of Herbert Street, or Tempest Street as it was originally called. They were all finished and occupied by the following March. The north side of Herbert Street was built during the first six months of 1861.
Additions to Garron Tower
During the second phase of building, the Marchioness made the following additions to her residence at Garron Tower:
1: The Gate Lodge and Porch to the Tower, built by Fitzsimmons (1855)
2: The Gate at the Split Rock, “to presume a right of way” (1856)
3: The Ice House in the rampart of Dunmaul (1856)
4: The Orchard House, built by Fitzsimmons (1856)
6: The Dairy, architect Vulliamy, built by Dixon (1861)
7: The Vinery, built by Fitzsimmons (1861)
8: The Reservoir on top of Dunmaul for fire-fighting purposes (1863)
Our attention has been centred on Lady Londonderry’s building development, but she was responsible for progress hereabouts in other directions as well. In Carnlough she inaugurated a reading room and library, a clothing society, a temperance society and a savings bank, Besides her incentives of prizes to farmers for improving their holdings, she made considerable gifts in- both cash and kind to those of her tenants who were destitute. For her tenants in Ballyvaddy she laid down and paid for their new road leading up from the sea.
The system of rundale, where farmers had multitudinous tiny plots scattered throughout the townland, had largely disappeared on her property.19 Nevertheless all holdings were small, and some of her tenants could scarcely make a living off their land. So the Marchioness instructed her agent that in future, when a tenant died leaving no heir, his immediate neighbour should have first preference at the sale of his land, thus diminishing the tendency for holdings to decrease in size.
Those still unable, for one reason or another, to make a success of their farms, could now find employment and a means of livelihood Within the various branches of her Harbour Scheme. By today’s standards her wages and working conditions were atrocious, but there is no doubt that over the years her enterprise brought relief and security to many of her tenants whose lot would otherwise have been in the extreme. If an economic return on her capital was always in her mind, so also was the welfare of her tenants.
The Marchioness of Londonderry 1860
(For the photograph of the miniature of Richard Wilson we are indebted to Col. Roger Moore of Sway, Hampshire).
1. Richard Wilson, born in 1805 came of a large family which lived at Maxwell Court, Comber, Co. Down. In 1847 he married Henrietta Cassidy. He died in 1879.
2. Some 540 letters from Richard Wilson to the Londonderrys are deposited with the County of Durham Record Office. Xerox copies are also retained by the PRONI. Richard’s youngest brother, Robert Maxwell Wilson (1814-56), was engaged by the Marquis in 1852 and later became agent for the Seaham Hall Estate. He conducted much of this correspondence with Richard on the Marchioness’ behalf.
3. The Marchioness returned annually to the Tower for a holiday in the late summer, when she could see for herself how her estate progressed. Gaps in the dates of the letters indicate these visits.
4. The inscription on the southern parapet of the Arch over the Front Street in Carnlough reads, “Projected and Commissioned by Charles Stewart Vane, Marquis of Londonderry and finished by Francis Anne Vane, Marchioness of Londonderry, 1854.”
5 Phillip Gibbons was master of a smack from Westport, Co.Sligo. Late in the eighteenth century he pulled in at Glenarm where, foresaking the sea, he married Anne, daughter of Nicholas Stewart, the Earl of Antrim’s agent. Through his marriage he became possessed of, amongst other properties, the townland of Carnlough North, where they resided. He was a sort of farmer-contractor, prepared to undertake any work for the betterment of the district. He died about 1815. By her will, his widow desired to be interred beside him in the tiny burial ground at Templeoughter within the Glenarm Castle estate.
6. John Rennie, in his report to James Agnew Farrell on a proposed canal from Larne to Lough Neagh drawn up in 1808-1809, mentioned the hurry, or inclined plane, then in use in the limestone quarries at Carnlough. See “The Canals of the North of Ireland”by Dr. W. A. McCutcheon, page 148.
7. The Ordnance Survey Memoirs for the Parish of Ardclinis: see “The Glynns” Vol I, page 31.
8. It is probable that this panel of rock was a dyke, similar to those to be seen cutting across the red triassic marl to the north of the harbour, below the Ballast Bank. Though narrow, these run roughly parallel with the entrance, and would therefore present an awkward obstacle.
9. Richard Wilson’s son, Mark Francis Wilson, who succeeded him as agent, also lived at Stony Hill House. Mark married Susan Jackson. They had two children, Richard Bryanton (1873-1892) to whose memory the lectern in Ardclinis Church was presented, and Edith Sherwood, who in 1899 married Sydney William Moore of Moore Lodge, beside the Bann, at that time employed on the sea protection work on the Coast road at Carnlough. Mark Francis Wilson died in 1919, within weeks of his retirement and was buried in South Ealing, London. His widow erected a drinking trough to his memory which stood for some years immediately north of the Bridge in Carnlough.
10. A full four column account of this event “by our own reporter” is given in the Belfast Newsletter of 20th September, 1856.
11. In 1812 Dubourdieu wrote, “Whatever are the chymical effects of lime, they certainly cannot agree better with any soil than with the clays of Antrim. The quantity of lime put on is very great; from one to two hundred barrels of three bushels each, to the Irish acre…” Statistical Survey of the County of Antrim, page 226”. From both Dean William Henry’s “Topographical Description of The Coast of County Antrim” (1740) and the Rev. R. S. Dobbs’ “Statistical Account of Ardclinis and Layd”(1817) it is evident that burning limestone for the purpose of making manure had gone on in the Carnlough district for some considerable time.
12. About a year later a severe storm in January 1857 caused superficial damage at Garron Tower. Wilson inspected it, “ accompanied by Patrick Mahon who was present from the commencement of the building until the present time and has previously frequently examined all the deficiencies and cracks that are to be observed. We minutely inspected every portion of the building together….(and) we are certainly of the opinion there is no cause for alarm” (22.1.57) That is all the letters have to say about Patrick Mahon, but we know by the 1860 Valuation lists that he lived in the small house at the corner of High Street and Herbert Street. Here, shortly afterwards, tragedy knocked at the door; for we learn from the Mahon headstone in the Largy churchyard that Patrick’s wife and three children all died within a twelve month, (1861-2).
13. This was probably the kiln, now almost lost to view, which stood above the present Coast Road, immediately to the north of the Slipway. It was served by roads from the Croft and the Largy. The latter branched off just below Ruby Hill and passed to the seaward end of Grentara Terrace.
14. Ulster Architectural Heritage Society List — Glens of Antrim (1971) pages 22 and 26.
15. Richard was son of George Halloran, former gauger at Glenarm. He had had considerable experience of work of this kind. He was educated at the Belfast Academical Institution. In 1844 he leased from Mr. McGildowny the kilns at Knockans near Cushendall together with the quarry above. Later he leased the quarry and kilns at Glenarm. Owing to a trivial offence he had given to Lord Antrim’s agent, Mr. Hannah, Halloran was turned out of these in November 1857 in favour of the latter’s brother. Halloran then came to live in Carnlough he was eagerly welcomed by Richard Wilson who accommodated him with a yard between High Street and the Methodist Church. From it he conducted a coat importing business until he took over the management of the kilns.
16. Lady Londonderry had inherited the townland of Carnlough South but not Carnlough North, which belonged to Gibbons. In order to gain possession of the harbour site and to secure the Arches she bought in 1854 some six or seven acres from Gibbons at the upper end of the town, upon which these two housed stood.
17. The contractor lived in Larne. The two houses cost £95.
18. Twenty years earlier Dixon had “received upwards of £800 for the body of the present (Largy) church; the Tower of it being built at an additional cost afterwards.” (10.11.60).
19. That Rundale had not entirely disappeared from her estate is evident from Wilson’s letter of 18th November 1857 fin which he wrote, “I have had a good deal of trouble with the tenants in North Unshinagh in doing away with the system of Rundale, but I expect I have succeeded in arranging that two of them should leave and their townland should be held by four tenants divided into four parcels instead of seventy as before.”