CLELANDS OF STORMONT CASTLE, CO. DOWN.
A County Down family, claiming descent from James Cleland of that ilk, co. Lanark.
Rev. JOHN CLELAND, Prebendary of Armagh. Born 1755; married 1805 Esther, daughter and co-heiress of Samuel Jackson, of Stormont, by his wife, Margaret Vateau, of a Huguenot family. Died 1834, having had issue
I. SAMUEL Jackson CLELAND, born 1808; married Elizabeth Joyce in 1834; died 1842, leaving:
1. John CLELAND, late of Stormont Castle. (See on-)
2. James VANCE CLELAND, of Ennismore, co. Armagh; born 1838; late Captain 3rd Hussars; married 1862, Emily, daughter of Sir George Molyneux, Bart. died 1886, leaving issue:
(a) Samuel, born 1864.
(b) George Molyneux.
3. LT.-COL. ROBERT STEWART CLELAND.
“The third son of the late. Samuel Cleland, Esq., of Stormont Castle, and grandson of the Rev. John Cleland, Pre-centor in the Cathedral of Armagh and Rector of Killevey. Born on the 24th June 1840. Gazetted in 1857 to a cornetcy in the 7th Dragoon Guards.
At the action of Killa Kazi on the 11th December (1878), while gallantly leading the cavalry charge against overwhelming numbers of the enemy during the retirement, Colonel Cleland was dangerously wounded. Becoming unconscious, he was placed in a dhoolie, which was subsequently abandoned by its bearers, with the guns, in a watercourse; he was, how-ever, saved from the approaching enemy by the gallantry of Sergeant-Major Young of the regiment, who, finding that he did not reply when spoken to, dismounted, and dragged him out of the litter into the water, the contact with which revived him. The sergeant offered him his horse, which Colonel Cleland refused. A few moments afterwards be managed to seize the bridle of an animal galloping past with empty saddle, and was assisted to mount. Ordering Young to collect and lead the scattered men who were by this time coming up, and taking a sergeant (Finn) to accompany him, he started for Sherpur, eight miles distant. His elbow-joint had been shattered by a sword-cut, and a bullet with which he had been struck was still in his side. That he managed to reach the cantonments over such country as lay before him, speaks of itself for his heroic courage and endurance At Cabul he was most kindly and carefully treated . . . – by his devoted friend, Captain Stewart Mackenzie 15th June, erysipelas appeared in his wounded arm. . – Eventually died on the 7th August.” (Shaibolt’s Afghan Campaign, 1878-1880.)
4. Samuel Frederick Stewart Cleland, born 1842.
5. Margaret Cleland
6. Robert Stewart Cleland, born 1810; died under age.
7. Sarah Frances Cleland; married 1831, Robert Richard Tighe; died 1882.
John CLELAND, of Stormont Castle Co. Down; born 1836 married 1859; Therese Maria, daughter of Captain Thomas Leyland, of Haggerston. Castle, Northumberland. High Sheriff, 1866. Left issue:
1. Arthur Charles Stewart Cleland, of Stormont Castle.
2. Andrew Leyland Hillyar Cleland, born 1868.
3 Florence Rachel Therese Laura Cleland Married, 1879, Edward Blachett, of Wylam, Northumberland.
Around the end of the 18th century the Rev. John Cleland (Rector of Newtownards from 1789 to 1809) became tutor to the young Lord Castlereagh and subsequently acted as Agent for the Londonderry Estates. Cleland originally lived in Newtownards but by his marriage in 1805 to Esther, a daughter of Samuel Jackson of Storm Mount, he came into possession of some land at that site. He subsequently added to his holding as he amassed a considerable fortune by more or less dubious means.
It was at Storm Mount that, about 1830, Cleland created what was described as “a plain house.” A mid or late Georgian house of a traditional type, it was in the form of a plain rectangle with a central projection to the south, presumably for the entrance. Associated plantings were very modest; there was a small-fringed meadow at the front and an orchard on the hillside to the northwest. A directory entry of 1837 referred (probably inaccurately) to the house as Stormont, and by 1864 the “Parliament Gazetteer” still did not rank it amongst the principal residences of the area. In those days the most substantial such residence was Rose Park, a name still in use in the residential area (and indeed in Rosepark House, a Government building occupied by the Exchequer and Audit Department and by part of the Department of Finance and Personnel). It was in the course of removing Rose Park, in the process of consolidating Cleland’s holdings, that his son Samuel Jackson Cleland was killed by the collapse of a wall in 1842.
In 1858 the Cleland family commissioned the local architect Thomas Turner to convert the existing plain dwelling into a flamboyant baronial castle. To what extent the original house survives is not clear. Conventional wisdom, supported by some map evidence, is that the symmetrical five-bay block facing south is the “baronialised” shell of the Georgian dwelling. To this Turner added the entrance tower to the east. The whole image and particularly the outline of the building, was given a “baronial” character with turrets, battlements, bartizans with conical caps, iron cresting and weather vanes. The Cleland Monogram was used on the shields held by the snarling stone gryphons, which still guard the main entrance to the Castle. The 1850’s also saw extensive development of the demesne. This was extended to the main Newtownards Road, with the old lodge for Rose Park becoming the lodge for the remodelled baronial Stormont.
The Cleland family finally left in 1893, preferring to live abroad, and the demesne was let out. At some stage Mr. Charles E. Allen J.P., a director of the shipbuilding firm of Workman and Clark Limited, rented Stormont Castle. On his moving away from Belfast the Castle became vacant, and in April 1921 both it and the surrounding land was offered at auction by a firm of Dublin auctioneers, but withdrawn when no bid higher than £15,000 was obtained. Later in 1921, however, it was acquired, with 235 acres of land, as a site for the Parliament Buildings of the new Northern Ireland state. On September 20th that Parliament resolved that ‘”Stormont Castle demesne shall be the place where the new Parliament House and Ministerial Buildings shall be erected, and as the place to be determined as the seat of the Government of Northern Ireland as and when suitable provision has been made therefore.” Today, Stormont Castle is home to the Northern Ireland Assembly (Parliament).