A brief history of Ballyards Castle
The land on which Ballyards stands was purchased in 1713 by the Simpson family, the family prospered in the area around the late seventeen hundreds. There is a record of military achievements in the Royal Irish Fusiliers and also as magistrates in the local area. The family used the waterpower of the Callen River and derived their substantial fortune from linen. Linen was laid out to bleach in the fields around Ballyards. The Simpson family are associated with many local grand properties including Linen Hill House and Beech Hill House, and in the 1860’s Colonel Thomas Simpson constructed the modern building of Ballyards House.
He completed Ballyards House in 1872, although it is thought that he never actually lived in it by the time he died in 1892. His widow continued to live here until she sold Ballyards in 1908. As well as the feature of a tower, Ballyards was built with a conservatory and veranda, both of which are now gone, the building cost in the region of £3,602. The coat of arms found on the sky light in the main entrance hall belong to the Simpson’s, it translates as ‘King, Kingdom Faithful’ a motto that is still practiced to-day but to a different king and kingdom.
The next owner was a local flax miller, Maynard Sinton. He added to the original building and by 1916 there was the oak room extension onto the rear of the house, the nursery and servant quarters in the northeast wing, and the addition of servant quarters and the northwest wing. This almost doubled the size of the original building. It was during this period that the name was changed to Ballyards Castle.
The Sintons of Laurelvale, were flax spinners, weavers, manufacturers and bleachers. Maynard and his wife, formerly Miss Myra Atkinson, of Tandragee had two children, Maynard Jr. and Brigid. Before the Second World War the family employed over 20 staff on the estate including two chauffeurs, a governess (a Miss Glenda Rowe), cooks, servants and gardeners. They kept racehorses and a pack of beagles, as Mr. Sinton was a leading light at ‘big shoots’ and Irish gun dog trials. The Ballyards cup was presented every year at the Armagh point-to-point races.