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Acheson family, Earls of Gosford

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Date: 1700-2000

Sir Archibald Acheson, descended from a cadet branch of the Achesons of East Lothian, settled in Ireland in 1610 as part of the Plantation of Ulster. In 1611, he received a grant of all or part of the manors of Baleek, Coolmalish and Drumorgan (Armagh), amounting to about 8,000 acres; in 1612 the manor of Corrowdownan (in and round the town of Arvagh (Cavan)), which was some 6,500 acres; and in 1628/9 16,000 acres in Nova Scotia from the Earl of Stirling. He was created a baronet of Nova Scotia in 1628. The centre of the estate was a house later called Gosford House. Here Dean Swift stayed with Sir Arthur Acheson, 5th baronet, for some months in 1728-29.

Sir Archibald Acheson, 6th baronet (1718-90), who was an MP in the Irish Parliament for thirty-five years, was created 1st Baron Gosford in 1776 and 1st Viscount Gosford in 1785. The 2nd Earl (1776-1849), who married the only daughter and heiress of Robert Sparrow of Worlingham Hall (Suffolk; sold after 1841), rebuilt Gosford Castle to the designs of Thomas Hopper from 1819. The 2nd Earl also expanded his Co. Armagh estate to about 12,000 acres by purchasing most of the property of the Richardson family of Richhill (his mother’s family) and all the surviving property of the Graham family, formerly of Ballyheriden (the latter rounding off the existing Gosford estate in the manor of Drumorgan, round Hamiltons Bawn). In 1835, the 2nd Earl was created Baron Worlingham of Beccles in the UK peerage, and sent to North America as Governor of Lower Canada, 1835-38.

The building of Gosford Castle and the land purchases by the 2nd Earl crippled the family finances. The 3rd Earl (1806-64), who was created Baron Acheson in 1847, built up a remarkable library at Gosford, which was sold by the 4th Earl (1841-1922) in 1878. The estate was broken up by sales in the early 20th century, and in 1921 the 4th Earl sold the remaining contents of Gosford Castle, although the family retained ownership of the castle and park until 1958.

  • Gosford Castle, County Armagh
Sources of authority: Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 2003; Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, catalogue of D1606
Name authority reference: GB/NNAF/F80944 (Former ISAAR ref: GB/NNAF/F9398 )
Number Description Held by Reference Further information
18th-20th cent: family and estate papers
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)
NRA 29999 Acheson
1870-1929: marriage settlement and subsequent deeds
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)
See Annual Return 2002