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16 October 2014
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While I have seen many photographs of the grand old house in Montalto estate, I have never seen it in the flesh, despite growing up less than half a mile away. Maybe this adds to its intrigue value, especially after Horace Reid describes a beautiful love-story associated with the place…

title image of Montalto House

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Montalto and David Ker

The house was built by the Rawdon family in the 1760’s and has changed hands many times while remaining in private ownership. In 1800, it was acquired by the David Ker, originally from Portavogie near Donaghadee and it stayed within his family until 1910 when it was eventually sold to the Clanwilliam family.
We have seen enough period dramas to imagine what might have gone on there during these years, the parties, the hunting, the servants quarters. But this particular story is associated with David Ker and has been told by the author Peter Carr in his new history of the Ker family, published Christmas 2003.

A Love Story

David Ker was a City of London financier, who decided to invest in some land in County Down. This was seemingly a natural thing for him to do as his ancestors were Scottish Presbyterians and he had some relatives in County Antrim. He originally bought five townlands around Ballynahinch and following the rebellion, he bought the whole place.

Being a business man, we might easily imagine him as a reserved man with a pocket calculator where his heart ought to be. But it seems this was not the case with David Ker. As a young man he went off to Italy on the grand tour, bringing home many souvenirs including a beautiful young mistress called Madelina, a 15 year old Opera singer. They lived in London but he often brought her to County Down and to his home in Ballynahinch. When she was 19, they started a family and they had four children in quick succession, who all inherited Madelina’s dark hair and Mediterranean beauty. It was quite normal at this time for a rich young man to have a mistress, but the difference here was that David Ker deeply loved Madelina and eventually married her after their fourth child was born. It was obvious that Madelina was ill, and David wished to declare her as his wife and ensure her children would be his legitimate heirs.

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image of headstone

Headstone in Magheradroll Parish Church

In the 1800’s, this kind of family story would normally have been kept quiet, but it seems the Ker family chose to celebrate it. Indeed in every succeeding generation of the Ker family, there was generally one boy called David and one girl called Madelina. And if you care to visit Magheradroll Parish church in Ballynahinch, where the third generation of the Kers are buried, there you will see the name ‘Madelina’ engraved on the family tombstone. She was Violet Madelina Ker, who married a Mr Rose and became Violet Madelina Rose.

Do you know anything more about Montalto House or any of the former inhabitants? Did you ever work there or know someone who did? Get in touch with us with anything you may like to add.


Andrew Webb - July '08
Its great to read some history on Montalto Estates, and see the comments of people who have had a link with the estate when growing up.

I grew up in Montalto house when my father bought the estate in approx 1979. I have had many incredible experiences in the house.......when your a young boy and its raining as it does so often in this country being able to go for a bike ride in the house seem quite bizarre however I must have cycled the equivelent of a tour de france in montalto house!!!

T. Dale Heenan [Henin] - June '08
I would like to make cotact with Kerr family. My family are from Drumca and bought Drumcaw from Kerr family. Looking for info on my early family records. ie wondering were they came from before Drumca. Any help appreciated and thank you for your time Dale Heenan
PS We farm in Western Canada.

Muriel Woods - Feb '07

Very good and interesting. Just to add a little bit of my family history. My mum Sarah McDowell (maiden name) lived in a cottage belonging to the Montalto estate.  Her father and mother worked for the Clanwilliams. Mum has a twin sister Aggnes, who now lives in England. They are 84 years yound they wore Lord Clanwilliams baby clothes and indeed were pushed in his pram.  There was not many twins or money around then. Where Grove Cottage was is now mums garden, indeed the tree where granny had her clothes line is still there, and beleive it or not the mark of the line is still on it.  We as family love to listen to mum telling us what she got up to. The school she went to, the Church - Edengrove- which she had the pleasure of opening their new halls in October.  She is a wonderful lady and very interesting to talk to.  Maybe get her to tell her story sometime on this.

Mum went to school with Alex Reid's dad to Horace.

Reg Moffett - June' 06
I can remember my mother telling me stories of my sister and I riding our trikes in the ballroom of Montalto when we were 3 or 4 years old we lived in one of the gate houses. I was born there in 1942, I am now in canada since 1966 it was nice to find this article, hope to reed more. Reg.

John Carr - June '06
Interesting point you make about last of the line Bianca. Tony would be able to get a good clue if his line is related to yours if a YDNA haplotype existed for your father. The same can be said for many other Ker family historians who think they may have a link to an even earlier generation of the family. Obtaining and preserving the YDNA haplotype for paternal line family history matching and mtDNA haplotype for maternal line family history matching is an important record the technology of our age allows use to discover and preserve for all future generations and descendants to use in identifying potential far flung cousins that have become strangers over the generations. Families today have a golden oportunity to obtain and preserve this record so their descendants are able to identify each other in future generations as well to identify those who may share common ancestry with them.

Ker families can join a DNA project where they can compare their DNA haplotypes with other Ker's and potentially find lost cousins with a common family history.

Bianca Ker - June '06
Huh that's kinda funny I was just doing boring random googling and thought, "why not google my name?" By the way, I am Bianca Ker last on the list of the descendants as it appears. It's kind of a shame that i didn't have a brother cause I'll be the last won't I? Anyways it was interesting reading about my (most likely) ancestors.Cool.

Simon kendall - Sept '05
It is unlikely to be any other David Ker than he who married Madelina! Their son David married Selina Stewart, daughter of the 1st Marquess of Londonderry and their son married Anne, daughter of 3rd Baron Duffryn in 1841. In the next generation, Alfred david Ker (mother - Eva Bateson, daughter of 1st Baron deramore and she was the great granddaughter of Frances Anne Stewart, sister of your own 3x greatgrandmother) Selina. I am currently researching a future family tree for descendants who must be your distant cousins.

Tony Ker - January '05
This is a very interesting article. It prompted me to look at a family tree record that my great grandfather pasted on to me and I wonder if it might not be the same David and Madelina Ker. This is an extract:

David Ker Merchant of London Died 1770 age 60.
- Married Martha McPheadrie Born 1719 died 1767.
- Begat David Ker of Portavo & Montalto Co Down married Madelina Guardi daughter of Francesco Guardi - Painter.
- Begat David Ker of Portavo & Montalto Co Down b 1814 d 30/12/1844.
- Married Selina Stewart b 1786 d 1871.
- Son David Stewart Ker of Portavo & Montalto Co Down.
- Married - no record.
- Begat Rev. Hamilton Chichester Ker B 1861 D 1944.
- Married Emily Maud Bateman.
- Begat Edward Hamilton Ker b 1900 d 1984.
- Married Dorothy Lillian Huges.
-Begat David Edward Ker b 1929.
married Sheila Snape B 1929.
Begat Anthony David John Ker B 1956 - This is me.
- Married Yasmin Bhatia.
- Begat Bianca Ker.
This is some of the data I have. Does anyone have any information to indicate if there is a connection to the David Ker in the above web site article? Regards Anthony (Tony) Ker.




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