Kin Edar – an Introduction

Front view of Kin Edar house.

What is Kin Edar?

Kin Edar was a large house in Belfast, with extensive gardens and a number of staff. It was built around 1863 and demolished in the 1940s, having lain vacant for a few years. The site was then redeveloped for housing.

Kin Edar (sometimes written Kin-Edar or Kinedar) is a placename that occurs across northern Scotland, but it is not known why it was chosen as the name for this house, presumably by Henry Hawkins, the original occupant. It was one of several houses of this name around Ireland; another, built slightly later, was in Windsor Park, South Belfast.

The name is pronounced Kin-EE-dar.

Where is Kin Edar?

Kin Edar was on Sydenham Avenue, in what is now East Belfast. At the time it was built, though, the area was still the County Down village of Strandtown.

In the Victorian period, the greater Belfast area saw rapid development due to industrialisation, and Strandtown was one of the areas which was transformed – in its case mostly due to its proximity to the shipyards on Belfast Lough. This involved the building of housing for the workers, but the area also attracted many wealthy manufacturers and industrialists who built large houses like Kin Edar. The area around Sydenham Avenue became particularly known for these houses.

The site now consists of Norwood Avenue, Norwood Drive, Norwood Grove and Edgcumbe Drive. Kin Edar’s namesake, Kinedar Crescent, is a short distance away.

Who lived in Kin Edar?

Kinedar had four main owners:

  • Henry Hawkins, a draper and textile merchant with Belfast company ‘Hawkins, Robertson and Co’
  • George McIldowie, solicitor (and great-grandfather of the actress Angela Lansbury)
  • Otto Jaffe (later Sir Otto Jaffe), linen merchant, philanthropist and twice Lord Mayor of Belfast
  • Charles Payne, Managing Director of Harland & Wolff shipyard, and the ‘man who launched the Titanic’

As well as the owners and their families, there was a household staff, coachmen/chauffeurs, gardeners and ground staff. Few records exist of the household staff, although we get two ‘snapshots’ from the 1901 and 1911 censuses. The staff who lived in the workers’ cottages in the grounds are better recorded, particularly through land records and street directories. They include my great-grandfather, William Henry Richardson, who was gardener at Kin Edar between 1909 and 1924.

Why am I interested in Kin Edar?

1. The family connection. Four generations of my paternal family lived there, and it was often talked about when I was growing up. My maternal grandparents lived in a house built on the site, and I grew up in the area.

2. The local history. I first started properly researching Kin Edar when I got involved in the Eastside Lives project. I was amazed that this part of East Belfast had once been the site of so many grand houses, and particularly impressed to learn about the gardens, some of which boasted glasshouses of a standard found in botanical gardens. Very little trace of these houses survive today; Ormiston is a notable exception.

What is the purpose of this website?

To inform, educate, and entertain!

Primarily it will be a place to publish my ongoing research, but I also hope that people with information or a connection to Kin Edar will get in touch to help fill out the picture of life in and around the house.

(c) Allie Nickell

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