Derrymore House in Bessbrook, Co. Armagh is now a National Trust property. Restoration carried out has brought the historic thatched cottage back to how it looked in the 18th century.
Built between 1776-1787, the 100 acre demesne of the property featured 140,000 trees. Isaac Corry MP was Derrymore’s first resident. Corry was the last Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland before the 1800 Act of Union. Some say Corry and other MPs discussed and drafted the act in what is now known as The Treaty Room. Corry later moved to Dublin, selling the property.
Several owners made changes to the property until its sale to the National Trust in 1952. The owners most known in the area were the Richardson family. Linen manufacturer John Grubb Richardson established the village of Bessbrook. His family also established the Quaker Meeting House in the demesne.
Derrymore House during WWII
In 1940, British troops arrived at Derrymore House. The Fife and Forfar Yeomanry occupied Nissen huts in the grounds during the early years of World War Two. The area given over to the troops’ billet had once been a 9-hole golf course. Other areas of the parkland such as the pond field became training grounds.
On 22nd November 1943, British troops left, giving way to the 303 Quartermaster Railhead Company of the US Army. The Americans arrived the following day and remained at Derrymore until August 1944. The site at Derrymore became Q-111D, Quartermaster Depot.
Quartermaster Depot Q111 had a headquarters in Belfast, Co. Antrim. Subordinate depots such as the one at Derrymore existed in Antrim, Crossgar, Finaghy, Larne, Moneymore, Seskinore, Ballymena, Balmoral, and Ballywillwill.
Not much evidence of the American GIs time at Derrymore House remains. Landscaping and redevelopment have erased remnants of most buildings. Concrete bases of Nissen huts are now earthworks as they are overgrown with grass. The kitchen block too is now obscured by trees. A concrete road leading up to what would have been the camp is all that remains.
The grounds of Derrymore House are open to the public. The National Trust charge a small fee for admission to the Treaty Room, which opens at various times throughout the year.