JAMES BRUCE-The Belfast industrialist who purchased the Northern Wingfield/ Powerscourt estate and built his Manor House (nowBenburb Priory). Wednesday 28th Feb 8.00pm

  • This talk has been postponed due to the inclement weather. A new date will be rescheduled.

Talk on Wednesday 28th February at 8.00pm in the new Library at Benburb Priory.             Speaker: Mr James Kane

JAMES BRUCE J.P. D.L. The Belfast industrialist who purchased the Northern Wingfield/ Powerscourt estate and built his Manor House (now Benburb Priory) and completely remodelled the historic village of Benburb. 

James Bruce was a self-made Belfast millionaire who bought the Wingfield estate at Benburb in 1877. He proceeded to re-model and dramatically transform the historic village to support his ambition to create a personal country squireocracy.  Bruce died in 1917 but most of the very substantial structural changes he made to the area are still evident in Benburb to this day.

This talk outlines the following subjects:

  • The original Plantation estate granted to Sir Richard Wingfield, Marshal of Ireland by the Crown circa 1610. This included the remnants of the castles of Shane ONeill (The Proud) and his successor as The ONeill, Tarlach Luinneach.
  • The relationship between the Wingfield/ Powerscourt estate centred around Powerscourt house in Co. Wicklow and the Tyrone estate. Wingfield was created Viscount Powerscourt in 1618.
  • The development of the Benburb estate by the Powerscourts up until 1870.
  • James Bruce’s Scots and Presbyterian ancestry. Nine of his ancestors were Presbyterian ministers in Ulster.
  • His early career and his business and social contacts in Victorian Belfast including his business partner James Craig, father of Capt. James Craig, later, first Viscount Craigavon and first Prime Minister of N. I.
  • The development of Dunville and Company whiskey distillers, into a huge and very profitable company.
  • The purchase of the Wingfield Tyrone estate including Benburb and 49 townlands.
  • The development of the Benburb estate from 1880 including :
  • The erection of the Manor House (now Benburb Priory), the demolition of many buildings and the erection of new buildings including a school, post office, an R.I.C. Station, gas production plant and houses. Extensions to the existing churches and the McKean Bros Linen mill. In short, the complete re-development and substantial alterations to the appearance of the old village.

These changes carried out by James Bruce over a 20 year period at the end of the 19th century were far more significant than all the alterations carried out by the various Wingfields in the previous 250 years and they are today incorporated as part of the essential fabric of the village.