A distinguished family, wartime heroics, a big band legend and even a gold heist - as we take a look inside Langford Lodge

THE Antrim Guardian has been taking a look behind the keyhole of some of the grand houses and castles of the borough in recent weeks, and this time we visit Crumlin and Langford Lodge.

Langford Lodge was a three-storey Georgian house dating from 1821 on a headland jutting out into Lough Neagh.

The Georgian mansion replaced a two-storey house of 1785, said to be similar in appearance to Castle Upton in Templepatrick built by Sir Hercules Pakenham (1781-1850).

It is said that when Chichester was governor of Carrickfergus three of his officers were Hugh Clotworthy, Henry Upton and Roger Langford.

These men were rewarded for their services by receiving Crown grants of choice lands once belonging to the O’Neills.

Clotworthy acquired Massereene; Upton, Templepatrick; and Langford sited his residence on a slight peninsula projecting into Lough Neagh, which he called Langford Lodge. Later on, the Langford and Longford (Pakenham) families were united.

The Lodge had passed to the Pakenham family, Barons Longford and Earls of Longford, through the marriage of Catherine, Viscountess Langford, to the 2nd Baron Longford. The offspring of this marriage included the Hon Catherine ‘Kitty’ Pakenham, later Duchess of Wellington and wife of the Duke of Wellington; Major-General the Hon Sir Edward Pakenham GCB; and Lieutenant-General the Hon Sir Hercules Pakenham KCB, from whom were descended the subsequent owners of Langford Lodge.

Sir Hercules (1781-1850), of Langford Lodge, had been wounded at the siege of Badajoz in 1812; was MP for Westmeath. He married, in 1817, the Hon Emily Stapleton (1798-1875), daughter of Lord Le Despencer. Langford Lodge subsequently passed to their eldest son, Edward William Pakenham, who died at the battle of Inkerman in 1854.

In 1913, covering the funeral of 86-year-old Lieutenant-General Thomas Henry Pakenham in Mayfair, the Ballymena Observer noted: “The Ulster branch of the Pakenham family has for nearly three hundred years been associated with Crumlin, and to quite recent times Langford Lodge was one of the show places of the province, famed for its fine trees and its beautiful gardens, where horticulture was made a fine art.”

The estate subsequently passed to the Rev Arthur Hercules Pakenham (son of Lt-Gen the Hon Sir Hercules Robert Pakenham), who died unmarried in 1895, when the estate passed to Colonel Hercules Arthur Pakenham, CMG, who died in 1937.

The Northern Whig reported his funeral, where it was said that he had served his country with distinction, adding that he had led an ‘exemplary life’.

He founded the Royal Irish Rifles as well as becoming the Chief Scout of Northern Ireland and was a Unionist senator at Stormont. He also worked for MI5.

He was, as many family members have been, laid to rest at Gartree Parish Church, which was once the private chapel of the Pakenhams. It was built in the 1830s by Lieutenant-General Sir Hercules Pakenham.

It is still in use to this day and the doors are often thrown open to visitors on European Heritage Open Days, with vintage military displays on show.

The last of his family to die in war was Major Hercules Dermot Pakenham, who died from wounds received at Dunkirk, just three years after his father.

He had missed the funeral as he had been serving with the Grenadier Guards in Egypt.

The Pakenhams sold the estate to the Air Ministry in 1940, when the RAF airfield was opened. Langford Lodge later served as NI Base Command for US troops in the second world war - especially ironic, as General Sir Edward Pakenham was the commanding officer of 5,000 Redcoats who were defeated at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815 - the last battle between England and America.

Civilian staff from the American Lockheed company pioneered the establishment of Langford Lodge as a vital wartime depot.

It was a vital wartime repair centre for damaged American Air Force planes which were hauled to the base by road from the docks at Belfast.

A railway line was opened up to transport thousands of civilian workers.

Opened in 1942 the base was an air depot for the United States Army Air Forces, as such thousands of aircraft were processed on their way to active service in Britain, North Africa, the Mediterranean and mainland Europe.

Langford Lodge was a target in Operation Grün, a second front to Operation Sea Lion, which was the planned Nazi invasion of Britain.

German paratroopers were to capture Langford Lodge, Aldergrove and Nutts Corner while RAF Long Kesh, Lisburn was to be destroyed.

The RAF resumed control of the airfield in 1946.

It ultimately closed as a military airfield in 1953.

In 1959, the estate was bought by the Martin Baker Aircraft Company - which manufactures ejector seats - and Territorial Army Sappers blew up the mansion house, deeming it to be unsafe.

In 1942 it was reported that some errant squaddies had swiped gold from the ‘big house’.

The British Newspaper Archive revealed: “The larceny of gold sword mountings and other property from Langford Lodge, had a sequel when at a special court before Mr. W. H. Cullen, JP, Morrice Druker, Dufferin Avenue, Bangor, was charged with receiving a quantity of broken gold, value about £115, between December 1, 1941, and January 31, 1942, at Bangor, the property of the representatives of the late Major H. F. W. Pakenham, Langford Lodge.

“Druker was also charged with purchasing gold from an unauthorised person contrary to the Defence Regulations. Sidney Green, Princetown Road, Bangor, and Jack Goldwater (or Waters), Victoria Road, Bangor, were charged with aiding and abetting in these two offences.

“Goldwater was further charged with being an accessory after the fact of the thefts from Langford Lodge, and further, with receiving two snuff boxes, value about £22, knowing them to have been stolen.”

A Royal Army Service Corp driver Roy Ernest Chambers gave evidence that at Langford Lodge, he and another soldier broke into the strong room and forced open two large showcases containing a quantity of gold and silver articles.

“They shared the stuff. About four nights later the witness again went into the strong room and stripped the gold decorations from two swords.

“Before Christmas, he sold some of the stolen articles and some of the broken gold in Belfast.

“About this time he saw an advertisement for old gold and answered it, receiving a reply from J. Waters, 126 Victoria Road, Bangor. He met Waters (or Goldwater) outside the GPO, Belfast, and sold him two snuff boxes for £355.

“Waters arranged for the disposal of the stuff in Bangor. Shortly after Christmas he went to Bangor and was taken by Waters to a house near the railway station and introduced to two men, one of whom was Sidney Green.

“While he was bargaining with Green about the price of the gold Morrice Druker came in.

“Green explained matters to Druker and the latter offered him £l00 for the gold, which witness refused, and Druker paid him £115 for it.

“Witness gave him a receipt. A man in the room asked him where he got the stuff and he said he got it from the beaches at Dunkirk.

“The nine pieces of gold now produced were those he sold to Druker. The witness added that he was at present serving a sentence of 12 months' imprisonment imposed by a general court-martial on July 14 last for the larceny of the gold produced and other articles from Langford Lodge.”

Replying to Mr. Fox, witness said he gave his full name and unit when replying to the advertisement.

“He might have got 45s from Waters for the two snuff-boxes. He said he found them on the beach at Dunkirk. Henry Cinnamond, valuer, said in June, 1940, he made an inventory of the contents of Langford Lodge.

“In March, 1942, he found that jewellery, miniatures, a gold watch, snuff-boxes, gold mounting of swords and furniture were missing. The gold snuff-box was worth £20 and the sword mounting £120.”

There were also many famous visitors to Langford Lodge. On his way to England, Glenn Miller made a stop there. The USAAF. renamed the Langford Lodge base theatre ‘The Project Magnet Hall’, where he played on August 13 1944.

Earlier the same day he played the American Red Cross Club at the Plaza Ballroom, Chichester Street, Belfast. Miller also visited Gartree and played the then-new pipe organ, which is still used to this day.

The organ itself was a gift to the congregation from the US 8th Army Air Force. Their Chaplain Reverend Norman Nygaard preached in the church on February 7 1943.

It’s also suggested that Miller paid a visit to St Catherine’s Church of Ireland in Killead, still inside the security cordon of the old RAF Aldergrove.

The Pakenham family may have moved on from Langford Lodge but you will still find their names in the worlds of politics, the military, horticulture and literature. Northern Ireland-born fiction author Michael Pakenham, now in his mid 80s, is the son of Major Dermot Pakenham - who, as mentioned earlier, was killed at Dunkirk.

His mother decided to leave Ireland to live with her cousins in America until the war was over.

Speaking last year, he said: “My ancestors are buried in the churchyard of what was once the family's private chapel at Gartree Parish Church inside the Langford estate and we have tried to support the maintenance of the building. And I used to own an old school in the area until I sold it to the education authorities.

“I also think I still hold the fishing rights to a river in the area.

“Langford Lodge and the Pakenham family have a rich and fascinating history.

“I really should go back to Ireland though I don’t have any relations in the north any more. My son Dermot has been there and he probably knows more about the family’s story than I do.”

After school Michael, like many of his male line before him, joined the Grenadier Guards before leaving to run his family’s extensive farming enterprises.

Perhaps one of the most famous Pakenhams was politician and reformer Francis Aungier Pakenham - known to his family as Frank Longford.

A long-serving Labour Party member who passed away in 2001, he was famed for championing social outcasts - most notably campaigning on behalf of Moors Murderer Myra Hindley - fighting for law reforms and helping decriminalise homosexuality.

Lord Longford visited prisons on a regular basis for nearly 70 years until his death and helped create the modern British parole system in the 1960s, following the abolition of the death penalty.

In 1956 he founded New Bridge to create links between prisoners and the community. On resigning from the Labour cabinet in 1968, he launched New Horizon, a charity for homeless youngsters.

In 1972, he was made a Knight of the Garter and was also famous for campaigning against pornography - as a committed Christian, he embodied the idea of ‘hate the sin but not the sinner’.

Frank’s children include Lady Antonia Fraser, the widow of playwright Harold Pinter, writer Lady Rachel Billington, widow of the director Kevin Billington and Lady Judith Kazantzis, a poet.

Youngest son, Kevin, was the Founding Chairman of the Longford Trust, which provides opportunities for disadvantaged young people and ran the organisation until his death in July 2020.

Eldest son, journalist, writer and historian Thomas, a leading light for many years in the British Irish Association, founded in 1973 said: “The Pakenhams were anti-show and anti-snob. They would not have been at all condescending.

“They would not have had any particular side. They never tried to be grand or talk people down.”

Frank returned to ‘Pakenham Hall’ a gothic pile in County Westmeath in the 1960s and restored the original name of Tullynally Castle.

Eliza Pakenham, his daugher, has written ‘Soldier Sailor’, a vivid account of her extraordinary family.

She still lives part time at Tullynally - the walls adorned with ancient swords and portraits of the men who used them, as well as being stuffed with their books and letters.

Speaking about the novel in 2007, she said: “You sit at a desk where your great-great-grandfather was writing his accounts, and the same blotter that he was using is underneath your piece of paper, and that’s a very nice feeling,”

Eliza also told of how she connected with General Sir Edward Pakenham.

“I dreamed about Ned as though he was alive and well when I was writing about him, and I would love to have a nice affectionate chat with him. He left a whole run of letters from the campaign against Napoleon, writing back to his mother and brother.

“You read his thoughts week after week and you become extremely close to him as a result, and when he is suddenly killed it's absolutely devastating, because it’s like you've lost a friend.”

While the house at Langford Lodge is long gone, its legacy remains and the Pakenham name still resounds around Crumlin.

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