The construction of Brownlow House, Lurgan, Co. Armagh began in 1833. The Grade A listed building was the ancestral home of the Right Honourable Charles Brownlow and family from 1833 - 1895. Famous Edinburgh architect William Henry Playfair designed the Scottish sandstone building.
The large manor house is a ‘Calendar House’ meaning that it features:
- 4 wings for each season of the year.
- 7 external doors for each day of the week.
- 12 external corners for each month of the year.
- 52 chimneys for each week of the year.
- 365 rooms for each day of the year.
The Elizabethan style house stands next to the lake in Lurgan Park, only a few minutes’ walk from the town centre. It features an ornamental tower and a range of 52 imposing chimney stacks as well as 365 rooms. Legend claims a tunnel runs from the house, beneath the ornamental lake up to Castle Street, Lurgan. It enabled Lord Brownlow and his roving eye to escape the house after dark and to return unnoticed by his wife in time for breakfast.
Changes in the Brownlow family fortunes resulted in selling the house to the Lurgan Real Property Company Ltd. In turn, they sold the house to the Lurgan District of the Orange Order in the early 1900s. They continue to own and maintain the building today. It now claims to be the world’s largest Orange Hall as well as headquarters for the Imperial Grand Black Chapter of the British Commonwealth.
Brownlow House in 2018
We visited the exhibition telling the story of the United States Army at Northern Ireland at Brownlow House on 22nd September 2018.
The house has often played an important military role. During The Great War, it was headquarters for 16th Battalion Royal Irish Regiment and 10th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers. In mid-1942, the mansion became headquarters for United States 5th Army Corps. Major General Wade H. Haislip and the United States 15th Army Corps followed on 21st December 1942. American military occupation of Brownlow House ended on 1st March 1944.
Planning of secret operations throughout the European Theatre of Operations took place in the rooms of the Lurgan castle. Such plans under observation from General Eisenhower may have included the D-Day Landings. Officers stayed in the main house while the remaining men lived in Nissen huts in the park and surrounding areas.
Traces of some of the troops still exist in the basement rooms of Brownlow House where wartime graffiti has stood the test of time. Rumours suggest that GIs removed one of the impressive stained-glass windows as a memento of their stay. A replica now stands in its place. Nearby, the United States Military was also based at Kircassock House, Magheralin, Co. Down and Waringfield Military Hospital, Moira, Co. Down.
In 1996, an extensive fire destroyed much of Brownlow House. Thanks to attention to detail, expert advice from historians, and an investment of £5 million, the building is now restored to its former glory.
The exhibition is brought to life with video footage, audio experiences and an informative display made to feel just as these buildings may have looked and felt in 1944.
A permanent display in the basement of Brownlow House commemorates the American Forces based in Northern Ireland. Thought to be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, it is worth a visit for any Second World War aficionado. The “Brownlow HQ” exhibition opened in 2015 with guests of honour including US Consul General Daniel Lawton. Other guests included Royal Air Force veteran Flight Lieutenant Bill Eames and Teddy Dickson who served in 42nd Rainbow Division.
As well as seeing remnants from the GI’s time in Lurgan, you can learn about living arrangements from a virtual GI. Informative panels tell stories of culture clashes, concerts and dances, and love among the local ladies. Among those rumoured to have entertained at Brownlow House was performer Al Jolson. As well as a wealth of information on the United States Army, the museum also covers other aspects of life in wartime Northern Ireland. Entry to the museums at Brownlow House is free but donations are both welcomed and deserved.
US Army Exhibition
The exhibition tells the story of the United States Army's time in Northern Ireland but also provides information on what life was like in wartime Ulster.
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