The family name of Musgrave is a familiar sight in Belfast as many people have heard of the Musgrave Park Hospital, walked in Musgrave Park and Musgrave Street and if you are familiar with nautical terms, you may have sailed in or heard of the Musgrave channel in Belfast Lough. If you have taken examinations in the Great Hall of Queen’s University you could have been sitting under a portrait of a Musgrave family member.
So who were the Musgraves? Dr Musgrave and his wife Mary Riddell started off married life in Lisburn, where Dr Musgrave had a thriving medical practice. Dr Musgrave and his wife had a family of 12, 11 of which survived into adult hood. After the death of Dr Riddell in 1834 the family moved to Belfast where they finally took up residence in Drumglass House which they built in 1855-56.
Two of the young brothers in partnership with their uncle founded the firm Musgrave Brothers, later known as Musgrave and Company Ltd. Their company, which attained world wide fame manufactured stoves, heating apparatuses and high class iron work. Two other brothers started a wholesale tea and sugar business in Belfast.
When Henry Musgrave, the last surviving child, died at the age of 95 (none of Dr Musgrave’s children married or had children) Drumglass House and gardens were sold. As part of his will 6 acres of land once the gardens of Drumglass House was bequeathed to the city of Belfast as a children’s play area, Drumglass Park, which is named after this house.
The College, located in Lower Crescent, was in need of extra space so Drumglass House was purchased by the governors of Victoria College Belfast in 1922. Following renovations, boarders moved from Lower Crescent and took up residence in 1924 along with a Kindergarten department.
Vita Glass, the Great Hall and the Headmistress’s house were added in the late 1920s. The only time since 1924 that Drumglass house has not had boarders in residence was during the war when part of the school was evacuated to Portballintrae and Drumglass House was taken over by the Censorship Authorities.
Drumglass House has been home to Victoria College’s boarding department for 88 years. Some would say that the building hasn’t changed and in many ways I agree. When we have old girls revisiting it is fascinating to hear their anecdotes and watch them relive happy moments in their minds as they visit each of the areas in the house.
Whilst the fabric of the house is the same Drumglass House has changed in many ways. We are a modern boarding department with excellent facilities, constantly updating and progressing with the changing needs of modern society.
Drumglass House has been here for 157 years, an early landmark house of Belfast and a testament to all who have passed through its doors.
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