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History of Springhill House and Estate

Gardener working to clear debris from a wall with help from a young volunteer at Springhill, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Gardener working with help from a young volunteer at Springhill | © National Trust Images/Oskar Proctor

Discover some of the historical stories at Springhill. Learn about the part Springhill played in the Second World War, the story of Mina Lowry Conyngham and the colourful history of the walled garden.

Modifications to Springhill house

Over 250 years, the Lenox-Conynghams modified Springhill House to suit their changing lifestyles.

In the years around 1770, Colonel William Conyngham made significant changes to Springhill. Considering it to be no more than an ‘average Irish farmhouse,’ he added the two flanking wings on either side of the 17th-century building and made many other fashionable enhancements to the house.

The Library

The warm and comfortable Library began life as a dining room. The bookshelves were added in the early 19th century, giving the space a library atmosphere.

Although a more formal dining room was added in the 1820s, the family preferred the more intimate space of the Library for everyday use. Its function as the ‘small dining room’ continued right up to the 1950s.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room was the last of the main additions to the house. It was built by William Lenox-Conyngham and became the formal entertaining and dining space.

‘Wims’, as he was affectionally known by his family, took over the estate at the age of 24, giving up his successful career as a lawyer in Glasgow. His marriage to Charlotte Staples of Lissan House, daughter of an Irish member of parliament, added to the social prestige of the Lenox-Conynghams.

Springhill in the Second World War

Springhill played an important role during the Second World War as a US Army base. From 1942 to May 1944 Springhill was requisitioned by four battalions from the US Army.

Springhill found itself awash with drilling regiments and along with the sounds of diesel army trucks, the demesne resonated with the clatter of all things military. 112th Engineers, 519th Quartermaster Regiment, 544th Quartermaster Battalion and 3991st Quartermaster Truck Company were all stationed here at one point.

A sober reminder of American social order was evident in the sleeping arrangements of the troops. The United States Military remained segregated and while the plantation house was used by officers and predominantly white units, the Nissen huts of Tower Hill Camp at the opposite end of The Beech Walk were home to the black soldiers of the Quartermaster units.

Mina Lowry Lenox Conyngham was the lady of the house at Springhill at the time. She once said of these Nissen huts: ‘Ugly Nissen huts sprang up on Tower Hill…the laundry [Yard] became the Sergeants Mess and the Harness Room [became] the Orderly Room. Bugle sounds filled the air and drilling took place in the courtyard.'

The Library of 17th-century 'Planter' house, Springhill, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
The Library at Springhill | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Mina Lowry Lenox Conyngham's lending library

Although Mina showed signs of agitation when writing about the US Army on her property, she became more and more invested in showing the troops hospitality. Mina decided to make use of the extensive library that exists at Springhill and started up a lending library for the battalions.

She covered books with a brown paper to identify them as a lending book and soldiers had a set time to read their book and then return it. Today, within the collection at Springhill you can still identify books from Mina’s lending library.

In December 1944, the Government derequisitioned the house and it returned to the Lenox-Conyngham family.

The life of Mina Lowry Lenox Conyngham

Mina Lowry Lenox Conyngham was born in 1866 in Rockdale House near Sandholes, located just outside Cookstown. She lived through the First World War and Second World War and threw herself into helping others and found strength to support her causes from home.

Mina was a very talented and steadfast individual. Locally she raised funds for supplies and huts to be built for the Ulster regiments during the First World War and she facilitated the US Army while they requisitioned the grounds at Springhill some 30 years on.

Strong-willed and never shy to speak up Mina put pen to paper to what is now the ‘go-to’ book on Springhill called the ‘Old Ulster House’.

Mina died in 1961, a life spanning over nine decades. She was the last of the Lenox-Conynghams to live in the house at Springhill before it was given to the National Trust in 1957.

The Walled Garden

The Walled Garden at Springhill has a colourful history which has been pieced together using archive materials and local knowledge. The earliest details recorded stem from the 1700s when Springhill held the form of a plantation house.

A history of the Walled Garden


The 19th century

In the 1800s, property maps show that the walled garden was clearly divided into distinct areas. By 1862 the far end shows a pond and an ornate garden layout in the far end, with a kitchen garden nearer the top wall. 

By the late 1800s, the pond appears to have been covered over, and it is thought that it was carefully laid out as a formal, ornate garden. 

The Entrance Front of Springhill, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland showing both pavillions and part of the garden at sunset

Discover more at Springhill

Find out when Springhill is open, how to get here, things to see and do and more.

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Discover volunteering opportunities at Springhill and learn about what volunteering involves.

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Springhill's collections 

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Springhill on the National Trust Collections website.