Bangor Historical Society welcomed Jason Diamond as their speaker on Thursday 10 March 2011. He gave a most interesting talk on the Manchester family, one of whose Irish seats was Tandragee Castle.

Mr. Diamond began by giving us some background information on both Tandragee and the Manchester family. The O’Hanlon clan had a castle on the site. Later the area was owned by Sir Oliver St. John who brought settlers from England. He was subsequently created Viscount Grandison. The estate later passed to his brother and then down the female line to the Sparrow family.

The Montagus made their fortune during the reign of Henry VIII. Sir Edward Montagu bought the house at Boughton which later passed to the Dukes of Buccleuch who still own it. Henry Montagu, who was a lawyer like his grandfather Edward, became the first Earl of Manchester. Other titles gained by the Montagu family were the Dukedom of Buccleuch and the Earldom of Sandwich. The first Earl of Manchester became Lord Treasurer, a post for which he paid £20,000. He was also Lord Lieutenant of Huntingdon. The family seat was Kimbolton Castle which is now a school. The titles of Baron Kimbolton and Viscount Mandeville were reserved for the heirs to the Earldom. Henry died in 1642 and was buried in the family vault at Kimbolton.

Edward, the second Earl, took the parliamentary side in the English Civil War. Oliver Cromwell served under him, but they fell out and the Earl then retired to his estates. The Earl preferred a settlement with the king to regicide. He became speaker of the House of Lords during the Restoration and was deputed to welcome King Charles II back to England. He subsequently became Lord Chamberlain. He was succeeded by his son Robert who acted as a trainbearer at the coronation. He died in 1684.

Charles, the next Earl, took part in the coronation of James II. He became Lord Carver to the king. He travelled on the continent and met Prince William in Holland. As a result he became a supporter of the Prince and raised a troop of soldiers to support him at the Glorious Revolution in 1688. He fought at the Battle of the Boyne on the Williamite side.

He became ambassador extraordinary at Venice and later in France. George I created him first Duke of Manchester in 1719. He was a cultured man who brought back the artist, Pellegrini from Venice.

The first Duke lived at Kimbolton Castle, once the home of Catherine of Aragon. He had the house remodelled by Vanbrugh, the architect of Blenheim Place and Castle Howard. Although the house is now a school it is open to the public in the holidays and still has family portraits on the walls. The Duke also owned Manchester House in London, which was later bought by the Earl of Hertford. It was renamed Hertford House and is now the home of the Wallace Collection.

William, the 5th Duke, was Governor of Jamaica and died in Rome. He suffered a bad injury when he was thrown from his horse. The sixth Duke married Millicent Sparrow. Her father owned the Tandragee estate and had married the daughter of the Earl of Gosford, the head of the Acheson family, who owned Gosford Castle. Thus Tandragee Castle passed to the Dukes of Manchester. In 1836 they commissioned an architect to design a new Tandragee castle in Scottish baronial style. Mr. Diamond showed some pictures of the castle. Unfortunately it was gutted by fire in 1955 and it is in too dangerous a state to permit visitors to explore it. One picture showed a turret which is supposed to have been built for a lady who needed good light for her needlework. There are plaques on the exterior of the castle, showing the family initials, coronets etc.

The family were magnificent landlords and set up schools, clothing funds and an orphanage for Protestant girls.

The seventh Duke was rather wild and was sent by his father to Hanover in Germany to learn German. There he met and in 1852 married Louisa von Alten, his host’s daughter. She was considered very beautiful. Louisa became a great friend of King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales. She lived quite a fast life, attending parties etc. She persuaded the Earl of Derby to promise to make her Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria, if he became prime minister. He was able to keep his promise, but the Queen did not like the Duchess. The Duke and Duchess of Manchester had two sons and three daughters. She later had an affair with the Marquis of Hartington, heir to the Duke of Devonshire. When her husband died, she married the Marquis, who was by then Duke of Devonshire. Louisa’s marriages to two dukes earned her the nickname the Double Duchess. In 1897 she held a great ball at Devonshire House in London to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Mr. Diamond showed a photograph of the Duchess dressed as Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra. Louisa’s three daughters all married well. Mary became a duchess like her mother, by marrying the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon. Louisa married the Earl of Gosford. A beautiful painting of her three daughters – the Acheson sisters by John Singer Sergeant - is now in Chatsworth House. The third Montagu sister, Alice, married the Earl of Derby. Her husband was very wealthy and owned Knowsley house. Their daughter Victoria Stanley died young when she fell from her horse.

The eighth Duke, like a number of aristocrats, married a rich American. Her name was Consuela Iznaga and her father had large estates in Cuba. Her marriage paved the way for other rich Americans. Her goddaughter Consuela Vanderbilt married the Duke of Marlborough. The Duchess of Manchester did not have a very happy life and was treated badly by her husband. She was often left alone at Tandragee Castle with her children. Her twin daughters Alice and Jacqueline both died young. She wore the Manchester tiara which is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The eighth Duke died at Tandragee Castle and was buried in the neighbouring churchyard.

The ninth Duke worked for the American William Randolph Hearst. He met an American heiress called Helena Zimmerman. Her father, a railway magnate, opposed the marriage, but the Duke and Helena eloped. Her father paid the Duke’s debts and bought Kylemore Abbey for the couple. The Abbey had originally been built for Mitchell Henry of Dromore, but he sold it after the death of his wife. Eugene Zimmerman then bought it cheaply as a wedding present for his daughter and son-in-law. He put the house in the Duke’s name. The Duchess transformed the ballroom for the visit of Edward VII, but he only stayed to tea. The Duke later gambled away his property. Helena divorced him and married a Scottish lord. The abbey was sold to nuns in 1921.

The tenth Duke sold Kimbolton Castle after the war and moved to Kenya. Later the Manchester silver was also due to be sold. This included a chalice and patten of 1686 which came from Tandragee church. A parishioner was in London, saw a report of the sale of the Duke of Manchester’s silver and fortunately recognised the items in time. The sale was stopped and the items were restored to the church after the Duke’s agent had written to him in Africa. The chalice had been left for safekeeping in the strong room of Tandragee Castle as the church had nowhere secure to keep it. The church has panelling from the private chapel at the castle. We were shown pictures of this panelling and of the stained glass windows in the church

Tandragee Castle itself was sold in 1955 to three businessmen. It later became the headquarters of Tayto crisps. As for the Manchester family, the 12th Duke died in 2002. He had been in jail in Canada for fraud. The 13th Duke now lives in the United States.

Mr. Ronnie McClements proposed the vote of thanks to Mr. Diamond for his very interesting talk.