Family history at Hezlett House
The house at Liffock became home to the Hezletts in 1766 and stayed within the family for the next 200 years until the National Trust acquired it. Much is documented about the members of the Hezlett family who lived there.
The first Hezlett
Isaac Hezlett (1720-1790) was the first Hezlett to live in the cottage at Liffock. He acquired the dwelling and some land in 1766. At this point in his life he was married to his second wife Esther and had two sons; Samuel from his first marriage with Margaret Kerr and Jack, half-brother to Samuel.
Samuel Hezlett (1753-1821)
When Samuel’s father died, he inherited the farm at the age of 37 and about five years later he married Esther Steel. She was 22 years his junior and they had eight children.
The Spanish chestnut tree
This story was handed down through generations of Hezletts. Samuel was intimidated by local insurgents to join the United Irishmen; his half-brother Jack was an ardent supporter. He was threatened to be hanged from the Spanish chestnut tree in his own garden.
By 1798 the rebellion was at its height and the two brothers were on opposite sides of the war. 30,000 lives were lost when the rebels were finally defeated. Jack escaped to the recently created United States of America while Samuel remained with his family in their home at Liffock until he died in 1821.
Hezlett House grows
Samuel's eldest son Isaac (1796-1883) married Jane Swan (1805-1896) in 1823. He built a two-storey extension to form a new self-contained unit for his mother and sisters. This extension could be regarded as forerunner of what we call today a 'granny-flat'. Isaac also increased the acreage farmed at Liffock.
An educated family
Jane was an educated and capable woman and by marrying her, Isaac ensured that his offspring would be well nurtured and given encouragement to develop their abilities. At least two of their sons were sent for a formal education to Templemoyle Seminary; an agricultural school. A third son attended Royal Belfast Academical Institution and another one became a bank official.
Further improvements at Liffock
Hugh (1825-1906), Samuel and Jane’s eldest son, increased the acreage of the farm once more. By putting his education to good use he made the farm more productive; more cash crops were grown and the herds of dairy cattle and sheep were increased. The outputs from the farm which generated income included the cash crops of flax, barley, potatoes, oats and turnips, in addition to wool, milk, calves, pigs and eggs. Hugh also oversaw an extensive re-modelling of the farmyard and outbuildings.
1881 Gladstones Land Act
The Act paved the way for further Acts which enabled tenant farmers to buy the land they had hitherto rented. So by the early 20th century the Hezletts were not tenant farmers but owner-occupiers.
Liffock in the 20th century
The second Hugh Hezlett (1872-1946) inherited the farm in 1906 when his father (the first Hugh) died. He managed the farm and dairy, while his brother Thomas performed much practical labour and ran a daily milk round in Castlerock. He married Margaret Ann Mark in 1910 and they had three children. As he got older Hugh spent much of his time and energy devoted to public life.