Friday 19 July 2013

(56) Agnew of Kilwaughter

When Sir Randall McDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim, acquired a vast plantation estate of 333,000 acres in Co. Antrim by a grant from King James I & VI at the beginning of the 17th century, he pressed his friends and neighbours in south-west Scotland to take 100-year leases of parts of his fiefdom at advantageous rents.  To make the offer more attractive, he fixed the rents for the term of the hundred year lease.  One of those who responded to the offer was Patrick Agnew (later Sir Patrick Agnew, 1st bt.) of Lochnaw (see the next post), who took a lease of Larne and Kilwaughter on these terms in 1613.  Although the opportunity may at first have seemed highly desirable, the turbulent condition of Ireland in the 17th century meant that it was often difficult to collect the rents and for over four years (1648-52) the Agnews were ejected from the property altogether as a result of a confiscation order from Cromwell.  By 1622 they had installed a kinsman, Patrick Agnew (perhaps descended froma younger son of Patrick Agnew of Lochnaw (1529-91)), as locally resident collector of rents, and in that year he built the earliest part of Kilwaughter Castle. 

The Agnews of Lochnaw continued to take the rents of Kilwaughter until 1708, when they were invited to renew their lease on new and more commercial terms.  This they declined to do, and they sold their interest in the estate to their resident kinsman and rent-collector, Patrick Agnew (d. 1724), the great-grandson of the builder of 1622.  They seem to have later bought out the interest of the mesne lord, converting Kilwaughter into a freehold.  Patrick Agnew was succeeded in turn by his son of the same name and his grandson, William Agnew (fl. 1760).  His two sons both died unmarried and on his death Kilwaughter passed to his grandson, Edward Jones (d. 1834), who took the additional name of Agnew.  Edward was an MP in the Irish Parliament, 1792-97, and was responsible for employing John Nash to greatly extend and rebuilt Kilwaughter Castle in 1803-07.  Nash was no doubt selected as architect because he had just rebuilt Killymoon Castle in Tyrone for Agnew's Stewart cousins.  When Edward died leaving an heir, William, aged ten, his unmarried sister Margaret Jones (d. 1848) took on the management of the estate, earning a benevolent reputation during the difficult years of the famine.  William Agnew (d. 1891) was commonly known as Squire Agnew, and owned 9,770 acres in Co. Antrim in 1876. He was reputedly murdered and buried in Paris in 1891, although I have been unable to corroborate this story. At all events on his death his property passed to his niece, Augusta, Countess Balzani and her descendants, the last of whom died in 1975.  The Kilwaughter estate was finally sold by her executors in 1982.  The castle, which was requisitioned for military use during the Second World War, was abandoned afterwards and became derelict; it is now a roofless shell.

Kilwaughter Castle, Antrim

Although the house may have earlier origins, the earliest visible part of the present building is the surviving part of an early 17th century plantation house, built for Patrick Agnew around 1622.  It is very similar to the nearby Ballygally Castle, to whom the Agnews were closely related by marriage.  The 17th century house may have undergone 18th century remodelling of which no trace now remains, as there was certainly a formal garden layout in place before the current landscape was created at the beginning of the early 19th century, with a straight approach avenue aligned on the front door.

Kilwaughter Castle, showing the central three-bay block that represents the original house of 1622.
Image: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.  Licenced under a Creative Commons licence.

In 1803-07, Edward Jones Agnew, a Belfast merchant, employed John Nash to build a larger house in his romantic castle style.  Although a great deal bigger than its predecessor, Nash's Kilwaughter was still quite modest in scale as early 19th century castles go.  In addition to the old tower and the staircase hall, the house had just three main rooms on the ground floor: the saloon in the round tower, a library adjoining it, and the dining room beyond that.  In form, the castle is very similar to others which Nash designed, particularly West Grinstead Park in Sussex, of 1809; the round tower also links the house back to his iconic Italianate villa at Cronkhill in Shropshire, built in 1802, just before work began at Kilwaughter. Not all the towers and turrets were necessarily part of Nash's design: in 1840 'the small turret in front' was said to be only fifteen years old.  This cannot be identified with certainty, but Millar & Nelson are said to have worked on the house as well as designing the lodge, so one of the turrets could be their addition.

Perhaps the most distinctive features of Nash's Kilwaughter were the bartisan turrets at the angles - perhaps intended to suggest the Scots origins of the Agnews - and the Gothic tracery of the windows, which was of wood and added in front of regular sash windows, no doubt making the main rooms unusually gloomy.  The house also has unusual carved stone windowsills, which were probably an addition to the design determined on site and perhaps without the sanction of Nash.

Nash's Kilwaughter Castle from the south-west in the early 20th century.
The south front of Kilwaughter Castle in the late 19th century.

The decision to employ Nash almost certainly followed from Agnew seeing Killymoon Castle, built for his Stewart cousins in 1801-02, which again has many similarities to Kilwaughter. Although the interiors of Kilwaughter have now all been lost, they are reasonably well recorded in a set of Victorian photographs held at the University of Delaware, some of which are reproduced below; they depict the castle when it was let to the Galt Smith family, who were here until after the First World War.

Entrance hall, Kilwaughter Castle.  Image: University of Delaware

Staircase hall, Kilwaughter Castle.  Image: University of Delaware.

Saloon in Nash's round tower, Kilwaughter Castle.  Image: University of Delaware.
The castle remained in good condition up to the Second World War, when it was requisitioned for military use.  By the end of the war the house was in a sad condition, and in 1951 the fittings were stripped out and it was left to become derelict.  It is now a roofless shell, although perhaps not too far gone for restoration by someone with deep enough pockets.

The house is surrounded by a new parkland landscape designed about the same time as the house, and possibly the work of the landscape gardener John Sutherland.  The extensive shelter belts have been depleted and many parkland trees have been lost, but the bones of the layout are still identifiable. There is an ice house near the lake, which was created as a result of massive damming, but which is now in danger of silting up.  The main entrance gates were designed by Nash, c.1807, but the adjoining lodge, a picturesque cottage with bargeboards and latticed windows, is of c.1835 and possibly by Millar and Nelson

Descent: Sir Patrick Agnew, 1st bt. (c.1587-1661); to son, Sir Andrew Agnew, 2nd bt. (d. 1671); to son, Sir Andrew Agnew, 3rd bt. (d. 1702); to som, Sir James Agnew, 4th bt. (d. 1735), who sold 1708 to his kinsman Patrick Agnew (d. 1724); to son Patrick Agnew; to son, William Agnew (fl. 1760); to grandson, Edward Jones (later Agnew) (d. 1834); to son, William Agnew (1824-91); to niece, Augusta Simon, wife of Count Ugo Balzani; to daughter Gwendolen Balzani (d. 1957), wife of M. Valensin; to daughter, Georgia Valensin (d. 1969); to aunt, Nora Balzani (d. 1975); sold 1982 to Frank Ferguson.  The house was let to James Agnew in the 1830s and to the Galt-Smith family (who were also descended from Valentine Jones) in the late 19th century.

The Agnews of Kilwaughter

An account of the Agnews of Lochnaw will be given in the next post.

Agnew, Patrick (fl. 1622) of Kilwaughter.  He was a kinsman of Sir Patrick Agnew of Lochnaw, but their precise relationship has not been established.  He may have been a son of Patrick Agnew of Sheuchan, second son of Patrick Agnew (1529-91) of Lochnaw, in which case they would have been first cousins.  He married Janet Shaw and had issue including:
(1) Capt. Andrew Agnew (1586-c.1659) (q.v.).
He was settled after 1613 as rent-collector on the Kilwaughter estate in co. Antrim owned by his cousin, Patrick Agnew of Lochnaw, and built the plantation house there in about 1622.
His date of death is unknown.

Agnew, Capt. Andrew (1586-c.1659) of Kilwaughter.  Son of Patrick Agnew (fl. 1622) and his wife Janet Shaw, born 1586.  He married Eleanor Shaw of Ballygally (Antrim) and had issue:
(1) Patrick Agnew (d. 1686) (q.v.);
(2) Capt. Francis Agnew (d. 1681).
He succeeded his father as sub-tenant and rent collector on the Kilwaughter estate (confiscated 1648-52).
He died after 1654 and before the end of 1659.

Agnew, Patrick (d. 1686) of Kilwaughter.  Son of Capt. Andrew Agnew (1586-c.1659) and his wife Eleanor Shaw of Ballygally.  He married and had issue including:
(1) Patrick Agnew (d. 1724) (q.v.).
He succeeded his father as sub-tenant and rent collector on the Kilwaughter estate.
He died in 1686, and his will was proved in the consistory court of the diocese of Connor.

Agnew, Patrick (d. 1724) of Kilwaughter.  Son of Patrick Agnew (d. 1686).  He was among the Protestant Irish landowners attainted by King James II in 1689.  He married and had issue:
(1) Patrick Agnew (fl. c.1740) (q.v.);
(2) Margaret Agnew, m. James Crawford;
(3) Jean Agnew, m. Robert Blair of Blairmount;
(4) Helen Agnew, m. 1709 James Stewart (1665-1726) of Killymoon Castle.
He succeeded his father as sub-tenant and rent collector on the Kilwaughter estate, but in 1708 purchased the lease from his kinsman, Sir James Agnew of Lochnaw.
He died in 1724.  His will was proved 1 July 1725.

Agnew, Patrick (fl. c.1740) of Kilwaughter.  Son of Patrick Agnew (d. 1724).  An elder of Larne Presbyterian Church and delegate to the General Synod of Ulster, 1726.  He married Martha or Margaret Houston and had issue:
(1) William Agnew (fl. c.1760) (q.v.);
(2) Frances Agnew, married and had issue;
(3) John Agnew, married and had issue;
(4) James Agnew;
(5) Patrick Agnew;
(6) Henry Agnew, m. Grace Harries and had issue;
(7) Hugh Agnew.
He inherited the Kilwaughter estate from his father in 1724.
His date of death is unknown, but probably took place before 1750.

Agnew, William (fl. c.1750-75) of Kilwaughter.  Son of Patrick Agnew (fl. c.1740) and his wife Martha or Margaret Houston.  A strong supporter of the Presbyterian church, who wrote into his tenants' leases a requirement for them to contribute to the support of the Presbyterian minister at Larne.  High Sheriff of Co. Antrim, 1774.  He married Margaret Stewart (b. 1712) of Killymoon Castle (Tyrone), and had issue:
(1) James Agnew, died young;
(2) William Agnew, died young;
(3) Maria Agnew (q.v.);
(4) Jane Agnew, m. Henry Shaw of Ballygally.
He inherited the Kilwaughter estate from his father in the mid 18th century.
His date of death is unknown.

Jones (née Agnew, then Ross), Maria (fl. later 18th cent.).  Elder daughter of William Agnew (fl. c.1760) and his wife Margaret Stewart of Killymoon Castle, born about 1735.  She married first, James Ross, banker and West India merchant (d. c.1763) and second, October 1763, his business partner, Valentine Jones (1711-1804), and had issue:
(1.1) A child, died young;
(1.2) A child, died young;
(2.1) Margaret Jones (c.1763-1848), lived with her brother at Kilwaughter Castle and managed the estate after his death; died unmarried, 1848;
(2.2) Edward Jones (later Agnew) (1767-1834) (q.v.).
Her date of death is unknown.

Agnew (né Jones), Edward (1767-1834), of Kilwaughter.  Only son of Valentine Jones and his wife Maria, daughter of William Agnew and widow of James Ross, born 1767. Educated at Harrow, Trinity College Dublin (admitted 1785; BA 1788) and Trinity College, Cambridge (admitted 1788).  MP for County Antrim in the Irish Parliament, 1792-97.  High Sheriff of Co. Antrim, 1803.  He married and had issue:
(1) James Agnew (d. 1826); died 7 August 1826;
(2) William Agnew (1824-91) (q.v.);
(3) Maria Agnew (d. 1857), m. Thomas Collins Simon and had issue a daughter, Maria Augusta Simon (q.v.); died 8 May 1857.
He inherited the Kilwaughter estate from his grandfather in the late 18th century, and rebuilt the house to the designs of John Nash, 1803-07.
He died in March 1834.  Will proved in Dublin.

Agnew, William (1824-91) of Kilwaughter.  Second but eldest surviving son of Edward Jones Agnew (1767-1834) and his wife, born 1824, and widely known as "Squire Agnew". Member of the Royal Dublin Society, 1848-72.  JP for County Antrim, but in 1877 was said 'to reside almost constantly in Paris'.  He died unmarried.
He inherited the Kilwaughter estate from his father in 1834 at the age of ten and it was managed by his aunt until her death in 1848.
He died in Paris sometime before March 1891 (he was reputedly murdered).

Balzani (né Simon), (Maria) Augusta (1847-95).  Daughter of T.C. Simon and his wife Maria, daughter of Edward Jones Agnew (1767-1834), born 3 November 1847.  She married 1878 Count Ugo Balzani (1847-1916), son of Andrea Balzani, and had issue:
(1) Gwendolen Balzani (later Valensin) (d. 1957) (q.v.);
(2) Nora Balzani (1883-1975), born 21 September 1883; died 17 November 1975; buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.
She inherited the Kilwaughter estate from her brother in 1891.
She died 3 July 1895, and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.

Valensin (né Balzani), Gwendolen (d. 1957).  Daughter of Count Ugo Balzani and his wife (Maria) Augusta, daughter of T.C. Simon, born about 1880.  She married Guido Valensin and had issue:
(1) Giorgia Valensin (d. 1969), possibly the lady of this name who translated a collection of ancient Chinese poems into Italian (1943); died unmarried and intestate, 28 November 1969.
She inherited the Kilwaughter estate from her mother in 1895, but lived mainly in Italy and is said to have visited it only occasionally.  After her death it passed to her unmarried daughter and then to her sister, Nora.
She died 15 January 1957.


Sir Andrew Agnew, The hereditary sheriffs of Galloway, 1893, pp. 46-60; Sir J. Summerson, The life and work of John Nash, 1980, p.45; M. Mansbridge, John Nash, 1991, pp. 138-39; C.E.B. Brett, Buildings of County Antrim, 1996, pp. 94-95; G. Tyack (ed.), John Nash: architect of the Picturesque, 2013, pp. 45, 159.

Location of archives

Agnew family of Kilwaughter: deeds, leases and wills, 1703-1879 (PRONI 1/902/2-62); conveyances and leases c.1800-40 (PRONI T528/2/31); estate maps, 1788 (PRONI T2309/1); estate papers c.1647-c.1800 (PRONI D282/2-160); estate correspondence c.1800-1900 (PRONI D668); estate papers c.1920-40 (PRONI D971).

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