Thursday, May 07, 2020

James Bruce - philanthropist who built Thompson House, Lisburn

The impressive building shown above was built by James Bruce (1835–1917), who was one of the directors of Royal Irish Distilleries / Dunville's. He traced his ancestry back to King Robert the Bruce of Scotland. Initally known as the Thompson Memorial Home for Incurables, Bruce built it in 1885 at a cost of £60,000 in memory of his father in law Dr William Thompson FRCSI. On its opening the Northern Whig said "rarely in Ulster has so large a sum been expended by any family on a purely philanthropic project". The architect was Godfrey William Ferguson. Today the building is known as Thompson House Hospital and it is said to have had a memorial to James Bruce inside it, which hopefully is still there.

The building looks very similar to James Bruce's country residence Benburb Manor, shown below, which was built just a few years later in 1888–90. It's a building I know well having completed an interpretative project there in summer 2017. Since 1949 it has been run by the Servite Order as Benburb Priory - it, and the setting of the Valley Park and River Blackwater, are definitely worth a visit when you are in the area.