Welcome to Number 33

Set in the village of Hillsborough, one of Ireland’s most beautiful and historic villages, Number 33 offers your a very warm welcome. This two bedroom Georgian house was built sometime in the late 18th Century as a coach house and has been restored to a very high standard providing the perfect base from which to explore the best that Northern Ireland has to offer.

Number 33 has an interesting history in that it was once part of a larger range of buildings. In 1900 there is a deed of conveyance between the 7th Marquess of Downshire (whose niece was married to the Hollywood actor David Niven) and Richard Crawley, a carpenter, relating to the sale of property bound by Main Street on the east and The Square on the south. 1920 is a significant date in the history of the Downshire family. This was when they began divesting themselves of their property in Hillsborough.

Nine years earlier, the 1911 Census of Ireland lists Richard Crawley, joiner, and his wife Elizabeth as living in a house with thirteen or more rooms and with seven windows in front, the landholder being Lord Downshire. This is the house at the corner of Main Street and The Square, quite a grand house for a joiner, which leads one to assume that Richard may have been Lord Downshire’s estate carpenter. The 1911 census also lists a fowl house, a workshop, a wash house and a coach house; now number 33. And if you look carefully at the chimney of Number 33 you’ll notice it sits at right angles to its neighbours below. Richard rented Number 33 to Arthur
George March under a weekly tenancy, eventually selling the house and part of the yard to Samuel and Mary Patterson in 1923. When Mary died in 1947 she bequeathed the house to Charles McClean Junior.

An introduction to Hillsborough

The historic village of Hillsborough or to give its ancient Gaelic name, Cromghlinn, which means “the crooked glen”, is thought to date back to 600AD. However, the village owes its present form to the family from whom it now takes its name – the Hill family, Marquesses of Downshire.

During the wars against the “Great” Hugh O’Neil, Earl of Tyrone, an officer called Moyses Hill arrived in Ireland in the army of the Earl of Essex, one time favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. Unlike Essex who returned to England where he was eventually executed for treason, Moyses stayed and married an Irish girl. He also began to buy land and lots of it. By the time of his death in 1630, Sir Moyses, as he became, had accumulated great tracts of land in Counties Antrim and Down.

It was Sir Moyses’ son, Peter, who laid the foundation of the village of Hillsborough. In 1630 he built a fort to protect the main road between Carrickfergus and Dublin, as well as building a new church. Sadly, most of his work was destroyed in the 1641 rebellion when the “Old Irish” rose against the “Planters” – English and Scottish settlers who had come to Ireland and taken what they saw as rightfully theirs. Peter died childless and his estates were inherited by his brother, Colonel Arthur Hill, who set about repairing the damage done in the rebellion, including the building of a new church dedicated to St Malachy. He also remodelled the fort and was granted a charter making him and his descendants “hereditary Constable of Hillsborough Fort”, with the command of twenty warders or “Castlemen”.

The newly founded importance of Hillsborough and the Hill family was reinforced in 1690 when King William III stayed at the fort for four days on his way to the Battle of the Boyne. It was another king, King George I, who raised the Hill family to peerage by creating Trevor Hill, Viscount Hillsborough. On inheriting his father’s estates, Trevor Hill’s son, Wills, decided to rebuild and improve the village as well as building a new mansion house more in keeping with their growing social and political stature both in Ireland and England. Wills had been appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies, serving in this post from 1778 – 1772, which was to prove a critical period leading towards the American War of Independence. It was during this tenure that the famous Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the present day United States of America, came to stay at Hillsborough. Records show that Hill and Franklin disliked one another greatly, the villagers claiming that if they had gotten along America might not have gone down the road of Independence. Despite this, Wills did leave his mark on the U.S.A with places such as Hillsborough County, New Hampshire; Hillsborough, North Carolina and Hillsborough Country, Florida all being named in his honour. For the res of his reign, King George III blamed Wills personally for the loss of America. However, this did not prove a barrier to his advancement and in 1751 he was created Earl of Hillsborough and in 1789 was granted the title of first Marquess of Downshire.

In 1780 he had the Market House built in the square, one of the village’s most striking Georgian buildings and between 1750 and 1780 many of the houses which line the streets today, including Number 33. Wills is also credited with inventing the screw top for lemonade bottles.

The Hill family continued to increase their landholdings in Ireland and by the time the 3rd Marquess came of age in 1890 the Downshire estate was one of the largest in Ireland with an estimated one hundred thousand tenants. So well respected was the 3rd Marquess that when he died his tenants raised the impressive monument that stands, like a miniature Nelson’s Column, on a small hill on the outskirts of the village and which is within easy walking distance of Number 33.

His son the 4th or “Big Marquess” was equally well respected and it is his statue which stands opposite the church gates at the bottom of the village. The Downshires continued to develop the village over the years. In fact, Main Street, where Number 33 stands, was once known as “Castle Street” and also as “High Street”.

Hillsborough today

Sadly, by the beginning of the twentieth century the Downshires were spending less and less time in Hillsborough and more time at their English estate, Hampstead Park in Berkshire. Eventually, the castle was sold to the New Northern Ireland government in 1922 for use as the residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland and since that time Hillsborough has been associated with some very significant events and hosted many famous people, including General Douglas McArthur, the Duke of Windsor, when he was Prince of Wales and of course many other members of the Royal Family who had been coming to Hillsborough since the tenure of the Queen Mother’s brother in-law, Earl Granville, as Governor (1945 – 1952).

Hillsborough Castle, or to give it its proper title, Government House, is now the official residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and it was here in 1985 that the “Anglo-Irish Agreement” was signed, which arguably paved the way for the “Good Friday Agreement” and the road to peace in Northern Ireland.

With its handsome Georgian architecture and beautiful surroundings, the village became one of Northern Ireland’s first conservation areas 1972.