The Cardwell family

William Cardwell was born in 1739, probably at his grandparents’ home in True, not far from Dungannon, Co. Tyrone. In 1772 he married Elizabeth Richardson and built a house at Tullyelmer, near Armagh. They had three sons and seven daughters. Their first son was probably Robert, who died young (1774-1778), the second was John (1789-1876) who married Rebecca Scott, and the third, William (1791-1861) who married twice. Their seven daughters were Rachel (1776-1777), Jemima (1777-1848) who married Alexander Smyth of Dublin, a wine merchant, Alice who married Robert McBride, Jane (c.1785-c.1860) who married Charles Smyth, the younger brother of Alexander and a merchant grocer in Dublin, Mary (1786­-1797), Elizabeth (1794-1796) and Ann (1796-1878), who married Andrew Wilson, an attorney in Dublin.

William Francis Cardwell (1829-1896)

William was the first son of John Cardwell and Rebecca Scott. He was born at Tullyelmer and married three times. First to Alicia Fenton in 1860, second to Emily Moyers in 1862 and third to Annie Fetherstonhaugh in 1869. He was a corn merchant in English Street, Armagh, but was declared bankrupt in 1863. His financial problems began when he was twenty-one and continued until his death aged 78. After 1863 he lived at Tullyelmer House and helped his father manage the land and linen mills owned by the family.

William was charismatic, outgoing, flamboyant and ambitious, but clearly not a good businessman. As the years went by he became more irresponsible concerning money, only ending when he died of an accidental overdose of chloral (a sleeping drug) in 1896. He was buried in the family grave at Killyman Church, near Dungannon. At the time of his death the remainder of any Cardwell lands in Tyrone and Armagh  were being sold to pay off his debts.

Alice Cardwell (1780-1837)

Alice married Robert McBride, a Presbyterian, on 6 April 1801. Robert was a linen draper at Killylinn, near Armagh, inherited from his father George McBride. In their marriage contract Robert received £500 (worth about £36,000 in 2017) and, to provide an income of £30 year (about £2000) for his wife in the event of his premature death, he sold to John Cardwell (Alice’s brother) and George McBride (his brother) the bleach green and farmland he owned, containing 26 acres, which was then leased from John McGeough Bond.

Robert built Alistragh House not far from Killylinn, where he and Alice lived. They had four sons and three daughters: George (c.1805-1858) went to America and married Annette Moran, William Cardwell (1810-1895) married Mary Jane Magee and followed his brother to America, and John Robert (1817-1839) was shot and died in Mobile, Alabama, aged 22 years. Eliza (-1878) died unmarried in Warrenpoint, Co. Down, Mary Anne (c.1808-1902) married Rev. C. B. Smyth in New York, Matilda Jane (c.1808-1904) died unmarried in Newry at the home of her niece Fanny Matilda Davis, and Jemima married William Alexander Davis, MD.

Alice died on 11 April 1837 and Robert died 10 April 1841. His obituary in the Northern Standard (24 April 1841) reads:

On the 10th instant, at his residence, Alistragh, in the county of Armagh, Robert McBride, Esq. In the death of this Gentleman, society has lost an upright and useful member  – the poor, a steady, generous friend and benefactor – and his family, a tender, anxious and affectionate parent. He was in his 74th year.

Much of the information about the Cardwell family has been provided by Patrick Cardwell Moore, who published his detailed research in 2016.


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Tullyelmer House in 1961, built by John Cardwell, c.1845-50. Courtesy of P. J. Cardwell Moore form The Cardwells of Tullyelmer, 2016.

Killylinn House, 2018. Now occupied by a commercial photographer.

Alistragh House, 2018, built by Robert McBride, c.1801-04.