I confess my curiosity knows no bounds when it comes to anything of the historical or genealogical kind. You can imagine finding an online feature through which you could alternate Ordnance Survey maps between now and, for example, 100 years ago was letting a child loose in a sweet shop. My curiosity was aroused by the names Barley Park and Elmfield House as I’d never heard of them before. I could feel the thrill of the hunt beginning to burn.
Due to a lack of census records pre 1901, street directories can be a great resource. The earliest resident I could find in the street directories was a William Stewart Ross Esq who lived at Elmfield House until his death on 23rd January 1890. He was born in 1815, baptised 12th July 1815, to William Stewart Ross Esq and Mary Ogilby, there was an older sister Elisabeth baptised 2ndMay 1813. Both baptisms were in the parish of Tamlaght Finlagan. According to the obituary of William Jnr, his father is said to have died in 1817 but at the moment there is no other evidence that I can obtain to support this. William Jnr married Anna Boyd on 12th February 1848 and there are at least six children:
1. John Robert Ross c. 1848, died as in infancy
2. James Ogilby Ross c. 1849 – d. 16th February 1851
3. Anna Maria Ross b. 2nd February 1852
4. John Captain Ross b. 9th May 1854
5. Frederick Ogilby Ross b. 19th April 1856 –d. 1884 of Yellow Fever in West Africa
6. William Stewart Ross III – mentioned in his father’s obituary as being the heir to his estate and was a Clergyman. He spent time in London and would die there in 1909, his eldest son Dr William S Ross inherited his estate.
Considering this was a family of prominence I was searching newspaper articles with reference to the Barley Park estate. What I discovered for the year 1900 was rather unexpected!
It was 18th September 1900 and Peter Gibbon, a servant who worked on the Barley Park estate, was heading out to clean a manure tank when he came upon a box “wrapped in a coarse cloth” upon which flag stones had been placed. It would be an understatement to say that Gibbon got quite a shock when he discovered that the contents of the box were in fact the remains of an infant. At the inquest, which was held in the workhouse schoolroom, Dr John Watson (no really that was his name!) concluded that the infant was newly born and the remains could not have been in the box for no more than a year. The jury’s verdict was the following:
We have no evidence before us to show whether the child was born alive or not; if born alive we have no evidence as to how it came by its death
Based on what I would normally see in burial registers, it is likely that the remains would have been buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave.
Following the Ross family a Joseph Boyd, woollen draper, was listed in the 1910 street directory as living at Market Street and Elmfield House. 1911 census records did not reveal a Joseph Boyd living at Market Street but there was a Joseph Douglas Boyd aged 71, widower, woollen draper, living at 30 Irish Street Green with his son Joseph Jnr aged 37 also a woollen draper and daughter Mary Douglas Boyd aged 28.
Ten years earlier in 1901 Joseph Douglas Boyd is still living at Irish Green Street except on this occasion his house number is 32 and he is also a magistrate as well as a woollen draper. Other household residents included his wife Martha Jane aged 60, Joseph Jnr aged 27, James Francis aged 24, Sarah Francis aged 21, Mary Douglas aged 19 and William Harris Boyd aged 16. Joseph Jnr and James Francis are woollen drapers like their father. Joseph and Martha Boyd (nee Rogers) had 12 children in all. The remaining seven children include a further four sons and three daughters:
1. A Male child b. 16th November 1865
2. Eliza Boyd b. 11th March 1868
3. John Alexander Rogers Boyd b. 3rd October1869
4. Margaret Cherry Boyd b. 19th December 1871
5. James Boyd b. 1st February 1875, died as an infant
6. Ellen Catherine Boyd b. 4th February 1878
7. Robert Frederick Boyd b. 19th October 1882
Martha Jane Boyd died 7th March 1905 with the place of death registered as Elmfield and the informant was a JD Boyd, widow of the deceased, who was also living at Elmfield. The final piece of evidence that made me confident I was chasing the right Joseph Boyd was a probate record dated 1928. It listed a Joseph Douglas Boyd of Barley Park who had died 31st December 1927 with the executors being Joseph Jnr, Robert Frederick Boyd and William Harris Boyd. His estate was valued at £511 3s 6d.
According to his obituary in the Northern Whig and Belfast Post, dated 2nd January 1928, Joseph Boyd was a magistrate for 34 years but his main interest was in education. He played an important role in establishing the first secondary school in Limavady and he also had an influence in reforming the conditions of the Workhouse. Prior to his death Elmfield House was purchased from Joseph Boyd and become the Limavady Rural and Technical School which was opened on 21st October 1909. The Barley Park School of Domestic Science eventually came into being and in 1928 there were more plans to build a school on the Barley Park site. A newspaper article for that year mentioned the house having a resident ghost.
So what of Barley Park and Elmfield House today? Well, rather fittingly, a school now occupies the site and most of the surrounding area. I can’t speak for Joseph Douglas Boyd but I think he’d really proud of everything this particular school has achieved alongside the rest of the schools in the surrounding area.