John Caldwell was a well-known linen merchant in the Ballymoney area. He was the captain in the Ballymoney Volunteers and in 1764, he purchased a home near the town of Ballymoney, Northern Ireland. The home was called “Millburn Cottage” and later renamed “Balnamore House.” There was also another home in the area owned by the family named “Harmony Hill” which is still in use today.
Caldwell’s ancestors had come from Scotland to Antrim and Tyrone in the second half of the 17th century. In 1767, he married Elizabeth Agnew and they set up home in the mansion with their twelve children, three of whom died at the house.
Caldwell also purchased around 40-acres of land which included a corn mill. Balnamore Mill was one of the largest spinning mills outside of Belfast and during its peak, it employed over 400 people.
Two of Caldwell’s sons, Richard and John Caldwell, were key figures in the United Irish Rebellion and as a result, both the mill and their home were set on fire. Richard was ordered to be executed but through his father’s contacts, this was repealed.
In 1799, the Caldwell family were banished to America with “hundreds of Irish Radicals” where they founded the town of Londonderry in New Hampshire. Richard died in 1812 while fighting with the United States Army against the British.
Balnamore House was sold to James Thompson Bryan and in 1863, he commissioned the rebuilding of the mansion. The architect of the rebuilt was Fitzgibbon Lough. The rebuilt Balnamore Mansion is described as an Italianate mansion.
At some point in time, Balnamore House was left abandoned, and the mill closed for good in 1959.
In 2022, Balnamore House sold for £200,000 in a cash only sale. The new owners hope to restore it to its former glory.
When we explored Balnamore House, it was virtually stripped. The outside of the home was still impressive to the eye but inside, nothing remained other than a handful of original features, including magnificent fireplaces and the staircase. We also had a little feline friend follow us around!