Glenmore Bleach Works and Glenmore House
Guest Post: this post was written by Callum, a year 12 student from Laurelhill Community College who spent a week in the museum on work experience. Fantastic job Callum!
Glenmore House was originally called Lambeg House, one of the original owners of the house was Francis Seymour, 1st Viscount Conway. He lived in the house for some years, when the residence was locally known as ‘The Lord’s House’. Glenmore House has been the home of several important linen families. Glenmore house since then has been converted into apartments.
By 1925 Glenmore house became a residence to the researchers and staff of LIRA (Linen Industry Research Association). This association was set up after heavy criticism by John C. Curtiss. He claimed that Britain had not put enough research into the process of making linen or the growing of flax, so at that moment in time the linen industry was very wasteful and inefficient. This impacted Britain’s war-time effectiveness as a large percentage of the flax was imported.
At Glenmore house they experiemented to see which flax plant would produce larger amounts of flax or what plant would produce a crop that had more fibre. Many plants that would have been strong in both these areas would have been cross bred to produce a very high quality crop.
Mr John Williamson, a linen bleacher, who owned nearly all of the village, and played a key role in the development of the linen trade, purchased the house in 1760.
A quarter of a mile upstream from Glenmore House lay Glenmore Bleach Works with its extensive bleach greens and mill ponds. Many people would associate the bleach greens with the Richardson name but if we were to look even further back into the history of bleaching we would discover the origin of the site as a bleach green. In a map printed by Lendrick, four bleach greens are marked at Glenmore, Lendrick names them Mr Hancock, Mr Hunter, Mr Delacherois and Edward Hogg.
The Hancock green was sold to the Richardsons about 1830. The Hunters, who are recorded as owners of the bleach green in 1780, sold to the Richardsons sometime prior to 1800 and on a map dated 1819, belonging to Messrs Richardson, Sons & Owden, the hunter site was marked as ‘JJ & J Richardson’s green.’ The same map also showed Delacherois’ green as Mr Ward. Eventually the development of the William Barbour & Sons thread mill and the adjoining village of Hilden covered the site of the Hogg’s bleach green and part of that owned by Delacherois.
John Richardson (1719-1759) was descended from a Warwickshire family that had originally settled in Loughgall in the seventeenth century. He served his time to the linen trade with his relatives, the Hoggs of Lisburn. He then settled in Lisburn permanently and married Ruth, daughter of William Hogg, who had been the owner of the bleach green at Glenmore. They then had a child called Jonathan Richardson who was among the most enterprising of the linen merchants of his day.
It was an accepted custom back then that Linen could not be bleached during winter, which meant that from the end of October to the middle of March little business was carried out on the bleach fields. Richardson then carried out trials in winter bleaching the results were good, the results were then supported by a similar experiment that John Hancock had completed. This then enabled Richardson to run his bleaching works all year round.
Jonathan then married Sarah Nicholson, they then had a son called James Nicholson Richard son, he then grew up and became the founder of Richardson Sons & Owden Ltd, these were the gentlemen who purchased Lambeg house and changed its name to Glenmore house.
Alongside the bleach green, the firm also had a large warehousing business in Belfast’s Donegall Square North by 1869. The building is still standing today, it faces the City Hall and is occupied by Marks & Spencers.
References: Fredrick Gilbert Watson (2008) All Around Lambeg Colourpoint Books. Pages: 11, 12,82,83,84.
Brian Mackey (2000) Lisburn: The Town and its people 1873-1973. Blackstaff Press Ltd. Pages: 49
Antony G. Searle & James W. Tuck (1999) The King’s Flax and the Queen’s Linen. The Larks Press. Pages: 18, 19