This house was built about 1680. It is unfortified but was originally surrounded by a defensive bawn. Around 1765 two single-storey wings were added and the entrance front was modified to its present arrangement of seven windows across its width.
The Conyngham family had come from Ayrshire in about 1611 as part of the Plantation of Ulster begun by King James I, and the King granted them lands in County Armagh. They purchased the Springhill estate in around 1630. It is believed that some form of farm dwelling was built on the estate at this time (probably on the site of the present carpark) but this was almost certainly destroyed during the Irish Rebellion of 1641.
Marriage articles between William Conyngham II and Ann Upton of Castle Upton near Templepatrick executed 1680 stated that he was required "to build a convenient house of lime and stone, two stories high ... with necessary office houses" for his wife-to-be. It is widely believed that the present house owes its origin to this document though dendrochronological examination of the roof timbers on the central part of the house date the beams to after 1690. At this time, many of the surviving outbuildings along with the rare Dutch-styled gardens were created. The gardens are currently undergoing a process of restoration.
From William Conyngham II (better known as "Good Will"), the estate passed to his nephew George Butle in 1721 who thereupon adopted the name Butle Conyngham. Under the terms of the Plantation Grant, he constructed the village of Coagh in about 1755, naming the main square Hanover Square in deference to King George II.
From George Butle Conyngham, the estate passed to his eldest son, Col. William Conyngham of the Black Horse Regiment in 1765. Colonel Coyningham added the two wings to either side of the house as a nursery and ballroom respectively.
As William did not marry until the age of 52, he died without issue. The estate passed to his brother David Conyngham who also died childless. As a result, the estate passed to the son of their sister Ann who had married Clotworthy Lenox of Londonderry. Colonel George Lenox, upon inheriting the estate, adopted the name Lenox-Conyngham and his descendants lived in the house until 1957. George served under Castlereagh in the Irish Volunteers but, after being betrayed by Castlereagh, resigned his commission in disgrace in 1816. As a result of this, combined with his depressive nature, he committed suicide later that year. An idle tale has it that his wife Olivia (née Irvine of Castleirvine in County Donegal) haunts the house to this day.
From George, the house passed to his eldest son William Lenox-Conyngham. He had been a talented lawyer in Glasgow but left his legal career to run the estate. In 1818 he married Charlotte Staples, daughter of the Rt. Hon. John Staples of Lissan House near Cookstown. John Staples was a well known lawyer and orator and was the last speaker in the Irish House of Commons in 1801. During William Lenox-Conyngham's tenure, the estate was drained and improved and a large well-appointed dining room was added to the rear of the house, complete with a 17th-century Italian chimneypiece salvaged from Ballyscullion House near Bellaghy, a house of Frederick Augustus Hervey, Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, which was demolished in about 1825.
When William Lenox-Conyngham died in 1858, the estate passed to Lt. Col. Sir William Fitzwilliam Lenox-Conyngham who had married Laura Arbuthnot of Aldershot in 1856. Sir William was highly involved in military matters and treceived the accolade of KCB from Queen Victoria in 1880. During his tenure, the estate was largely sold off under the Ashbourne and Wyndham Acts, for Irish land reform, and was reduced to around three hundred acres. Finances became a grave concern for the family.
Decline of the Estate
By the time of Sir William's death in 1906, there was little left of the estate and as a result of some unwise investments, his son Lt. Col. William Arbuthnot Lenox-Conyngham found financial matters very trying. In 1899 he married Mina Lowry of Rockdale near Cookstown in Tyrone. She was the last member of the family to live on the estate and she continued to do so even after the death of her son and the National Trust taking over in 1957 until her own death in 1960. Col. William Arbuthnot fought in both the Boer and Great Wars and his younger brother Lt. Col. John Staples Molesworth Lenox-Conyngham was killed during the taking of Guillemont in September 1916, leading the VI Battalion Connaught Rangers to the Front armed only with an ancient revolver. He is buried at Carnoy in France.
The house was bequeathed to the National Trust by Captain William Lowry Lenox-Conyngham, who died childless, as did his brother. His negotiations with the Trust had followed a chance meeting with Nancy, Countess of Enniskillen who had presented Florence Court in Fermanagh to the Trust the previous year. He died in 1957, just three days after signing the bequest into his will.
Upon inheriting the property, the National Trust undertook a large-scale programme of restoration and re-construction adopting the orthodoxy of 1950's conservation practice which saw the Victorian smoking room demolished, large portions of the house stripped back to stone and all the rooms re-arranged to reflect their appearance when first constructed.
The house today contains a vitally important and almost complete collection of one family's occupation for three hundred years. In the Gun Room can be found one of the largest surviving 18th century wallpaper schemes surviving in the UK, along with a "long gun" dating to about 1680 which was presented to Alderman James Lenox after the Siege of Derry. The Library contains one of the most important collections of 17th and 18th century books in Ireland and is composed of around 3000 volumes, the oldest of which is a small Latin psalter of 1541.
In the old laundry can be found the largest costume collection in Northern Ireland (established by Viscount Clanwilliam in 1960) and a selection from the collection is displayed annually in the costume museum.
- Springhill - National Trust
- Virtual tour of Springhill House – Virtual Visit Northern Ireland
- Lenox-Conyngham family tree
- O'Neill, B (ed). (2002). Irish Castles and Historic Houses. London: Caxton Editions. p. 18.
- Mina Lenox-Conyngham, An old Ulster House and the people who lived in it 1946 and 2005 ISBN 1-903688-38-8