Brownlow House Lurgan – A house, a dog & World War 2

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Brownlow House, Lurgan
Approaching Brownlow House

Building Brownlow House

This striking mansion was built for Charles Brownlow M.P. in 1833, and designed by Edinburgh architect William Henry Playfair (1790 – 1857). Brownlow was made 1st Baron Lurgan in 1839 in thanks for his services to the Whig Party.

Brownlow House, also known as Brownlow Castle and Lurgan Castle, is built of golden Scottish sandstone in the Elizabethan Revival style. The numerous tall chimney pots, each one with its own pierced scroll work pattern, dominates the skyline. Together with the lantern shaped tower and the great oriel windows, this is a stunning building, full of grandeur and romance, with 52 chimneys and 365 rooms, . The huge, ornate reception rooms are designed to radiate like the spokes of a wheel to take full advantage of the beautiful parkland and lake views.

Master McGrath

Master McGrath
Painting of Master McGrath

One very famous inhabitant of the Brownlow Estate was the celebrated greyhound Master McGrath. Born in Waterford in 1867, he was a sickly pup, but went on to be the most successful racing dog of the era. Owned by the 2nd Lord Lurgan, Master McGrath won the coveted Waterloo Cup an unprecedented three times. Indeed Queen Victoria herself, asked to see the dog and he was paraded before the British royal family.

Sadly Master McGrath died in 1871 from heart disease. However, he is remembered in the popular tune ‘The Ballad of Master McGrath’.

Brownlow House – 1893 to date

Unfortunately for the Brownlows, a downturn in the family’s fortunes forced the 3rd Baron to sell the house in 1893 to the Lurgan Real Property Company Ltd. The property was subsequently bought by the Lurgan District Orange Lodge in 1903. During World War 1 the house acted as the headquarters of the 16th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and the 10th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers. World War 2 saw the House used as the HQ for American troops stationed in Northern Ireland.

The building was badly damaged in an arson attack in 1996 but has been lovingly refurbished & restored to its former glory. In 2015 a fascinating museum and exhibition was added to the basement highlighting Brownlow House’s role during the second world war. (More will follow in a future post on the WW2 contribution of Brownlow House and what became of the servicemen stationed there).  

Today the house is a fantastic wedding and conference venue with a highly recommended Tea Room.

A Personal Connection

This building has a particular significance for this author, as my great granny Jane, together with her six sisters, was a servant here in the early 1870’s. The size of the property required the employment of a small army of servants. When first working here one of her tasks was to feed the geese, a job she hated as they would peck her ankles.

Great granny Jane was a very proficient dressmaker, and family history tells of the day she was summoned to Lord Lurgan’s study to be rebuked for going out on her days off better dressed than the ‘Lady of the House’!

We were lucky enough to meet The Leading Ladies at Brownlow House and they treated our group to an impromptu performance. Fantastic!

Read Part 2: Brownlow House – The World War 2 Years

Click the link below to follow the story….

Brownlow House - The World War 2 Years
Brownlow House – The World War 2 Years

Brownlow House Contact details

Contact: Brownlow House, Windsor Ave, Lurgan, Co. Armagh BT67 9BJ
Tel: +44 [0] 28 38326049

Websites:

Brownlow House Weddings & Functions

Brownlow House Tea Room


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