The O'Hara's of Craigbilly – Part Three: Their home at Crebilly

As already mentioned, the original 'seat' of the O'Hara's was at Lissanoure Castle, near Loughguile, and they had many residences throughout the area, including the castle at Portstewart, O'Harasbrook outside Ballymoney and Cleggan Lodge near The Sheddings.

They did, however, have homes closer to Ballymena. As many of us know, there was a manor house at Crebilly.

Unfortunately, very little remains of the once grand mansion, which was razed to the ground by a fire in 1921, after a formal ball. In my lifetime I have seen two photographs of this old house, one showing the front of the edifice, and the other the rear.

I have studied several maps showing its location, and how it used to sit on the main road between Kells and Broughshane. Thankfully, Mr O'Kane, the present owner of the estate, allowed me access and a 'free rein' to wander about and take photographs where I thought was necessary.

Picture 1 The main avenue leading to the Manor

Not so grand now, this is the main avenue, looking down to where the mansion once stood. It would have been roughly where the present modern bungalow is sited

Picture 2 The O'Hara Coat of Arms

One of the few evidential remains of the once luxurious home – The Coat of Arms. Some time ago, I introduced the curator of the local museum, Mrs Jayne Clarke, to the owner of the estate, and an arrangement was made to take a cast of this remarkable piece of local history. As always, time and weather have not been kind to the stonework, which has all but disintegrated.

Picture 3 Old Manor architectural waste

Hidden away in a dark corner, behind some trees, were these remaining blocks, probably from the front of the house.

Picture 4 The courtyard at Crebilly

The Courtyard of the old house is still in existence, with its entrance pillars still intact.

Picture 5 The bawn at Crebilly Manor

The more I looked at the outside walls of the old Courtyard, the more it resembled a Bawn. It resembled the construction of other bawns in the county, such as Dalway's Bawn, near Carrickfergus, or the Bawn in Bellaghy.

Picture 6 The old castle foundations

Of course, then I discovered this clump of stones, the only remains of the castle that predated the Manor House, built, pulled down, and re-erected several times over the centuries between the O'Hara's first arrival at the site circa 1350, and the construction of the Manor House circa 1740.

Picture 7 The ornamental pond

All that remains of this ornamental pond is a basin of mud. Hidden at the back of the gardens, it had its own sluice, so that the water level could be maintained all year round. The sluice gates can just be made out in the background

Picture 8 Entrance to Crebilly Estate, Roslin Hill, Crebilly

Known by some as the 'Roslin Pillars', these structures were once the gateposts that stood at the entrance to the Estate, near the junction of the Woodside Road and the Crebilly Road. Originally, each pillar was adorned with a round ball of stone. Sadly, the entrance lodge to the estate was rebuilt. Whilst many of the original architectural ornaments from the old lodge were reused in the new one, it nonetheless is no longer historical.