History

Montalto, nestled beautifully in the heart of the picturesque Co. Down countryside, is a privately-owned demesne which dates back to the early 1600s.

In pre-plantation times the estate was originally owned by Patrick McCartan. However, due to his involvement in the 1641 Rebellion, his Ballynahinch lands were confiscated, and in 1657 the townland was purchased by Sir George Rawdon. Circa 1765, his descendant Sir John Rawdon – First Earl of Moira – built a mansion property on the estate: this is the house that we now know as Montalto House.

Sir John’s ancestor, Sir Arthur Rawdon – The Father of Irish Gardening – had earlier amassed a large collection of exotic foreign plants at Moira Castle. Many of Sir Arthur’s plants were transferred to Montalto when his grandson Sir John moved onto the estate.

The estate has been almost exclusively, a family home since Lord Moira built the first house here. Nowadays Montalto offers visitors the use of 400 acres of rolling Irish countryside, which includes wonderful trails and gardens and a chance to explore this historic demesne and reconnect with nature.

Select Century

1653

Townland owner, Patrick McCartan is executed for involvement in the 1641 Rebellion.

1657

Ballymaglave North townland purchased by Sir George Rawdon.

1761

Sir John Rawdon becomes First Earl of Moira.

1765

Sir John Rawdon builds a new mansion on the estate, naming it Montalto.

1770

From now until his death in 1793, Lord Moira spends in the region of £30,000 planting over 100,000 trees on the estate (equivalent to over £3million pounds today).

His efforts play a significant role in transforming the grounds into the stunning location it now is.
1792

Wolfe Tone and Thomas Russell, prominent United Irishmen, are entertained by Lord Moira at Montalto.

1798

During the Battle of Ballynahinch (part of the 1798 Rebellion), rebels occupying Montalto House are attacked by the militia.

The mansion sustains some fire and artillery damage. Francis Rawdon-Hastings - 2nd Earl of Moira and Montalto resident - is a respected British military officer during the American War of Independence. He is a close friend of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. For ten years he is Governor General of India, carrying huge military and political responsibilities. He sells the Montalto Estate soon after the 1798 Rebellion and later becomes 1st Marquess of Hastings in 1816.
1803

Estate purchased by David Ker of Portavo.

1811

David Guardi Ker inherits Montalto.

In 1814 he marries Lady Selina Stewart of Mount Stewart, daughter of Lord Londonderry. In 1837 he extends and remodels the house, converting it from two storeys to three.
1842

David Stewart Ker marries Anna Blackwood and later inherits Montalto Estate in 1844.

The couple move from their home at Portavo to live on the estate in 1846.
1852

He becomes the 2nd largest landowner in Co. Down.

In 1857 he completes a new ballroom, inviting over 800 guests to the opening.
1862

Anna dies, aged 39.

1863

David Stewart Ker is financially overstretched, and sells off almost 4,500 acres of estate land.

1868

Control of Ker properties passes into the hands of external trustees.

1869

David Ker marries Caroline Persse from Co. Galway.

1872

David Ker is declared bankrupt.

Thereafter, the Ker family lives under permanent shadow of insolvency. David’s son Alfred inherits the estate.
1877

Alfred dies and the estate passes to his brother Richard.

1898

After years of catastrophic financial impairments, Richard is declared bankrupt.

1903

The Wyndham Land Purchase Act entitles tenant farmers to purchase leases outright, from their landlords.

The transition at Montalto is agreed between 1905 and 1907.
1910

Richard – the last of the Kers to reside at Montalto – is finally forced to sell the estate.

The Kers return to their original family seat at Portavo.
1912

Arthur, 5th Earl of Clanwilliam, purchases Montalto for £20,000.

The Earl fights in the Boer War (where he is badly wounded), and with the Guards in France in WW1. His wife Lady Muriel cares for wounded Allied officers during their convalescence at Montalto.
WW2

American soldiers are billeted on the estate.

They leave behind a network of concrete roads.
1953

John Charles Edmund, the 6th Earl of Clanwilliam, inherits Montalto.

He had fought with the Guards in the Middle East and the Western Desert in WW2. He completes his military career as Commanding Officer of the Tower of London garrison. He and his wife live on the estate for 17 years. Each St. Patrick’s Day they entertain the Bishop of Down, and other local clergy, at dinner parties. During his time the 6th Earl reduces the size of the house by demolishing the ballroom and the servants’ wing.
1979

The estate is purchased by the Hogg Corry partnership.

1980

They expand existing dairy farming enterprise to 300 cows.

Making the complex the largest and most modern in Ireland.
1985

A serious fire engulfs the rear wing and part of the east wing.

Fortunately, the front and west wings are unaffected, and their valuable architectural features are preserved.
1986

Hogg and Corry decide to cease farming and sell off the estate’s livestock.

The next three years see the planting of more than 50,000 trees on the estate.
1988

Corry withdraws from the partnership.

Leaving Hogg as the sole estate owner.
1994

Present owners, the Wilson family, purchase Montalto Estate.

Working with local architects Hobart and Heron, as well as John O’Connell – a leading conservation architect from Dublin, specialising in Georgian architecture – they set about a programme of works to restore the house, grounds, and outbuildings to their former glory.
2009

The house is no longer the Wilson family residence and is opened as a luxury private hire venue.

2012

The estate’s listed 19th-century threshing mill is converted and opens as The Carriage Rooms at Montalto, a high-end, unique wedding venue.

2018

Montalto Estate enters the latest chapter of its history and becomes accessible to the public as an exciting visitor attraction.

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