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Stars of the east: Stories behind east Belfast's grandest homes

East Belfast is home to some of the city's grandest houses. Here, historian Keith Haines recounts the fascinating stories of the dwellings and the people who lived in them

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Stately grandeur: Ormiston House

Stately grandeur: Ormiston House

Campbell College

Campbell College

St Helier's

St Helier's

Tweskard

Tweskard

Belmont House

Belmont House

Andrew Carnegie at Cabin Hill

Andrew Carnegie at Cabin Hill

Otto Jaffe

Otto Jaffe

CS Lewis as a boy at Glenmachan

CS Lewis as a boy at Glenmachan

The author in his study

The author in his study

Artist's view: Astolat House, Knockdeane Park

Artist's view: Astolat House, Knockdeane Park

Stately grandeur: Ormiston House

When Rev Richard Burgess Labarte, the rector of what is now St Mark's Church on the Holywood Road in Belfast, departed for a new incumbency in England in 1871, the entire contents of his residence, St Helier's on the Belmont Road, were advertised for auction, as was customary. Most of the sale items were unspectacular, but one would hope that a suitable new home was found for his "Thirty Singing Yellow and Splashed Canaries in fine health and plumage".

Dr Richard Whytock Leslie and his family occupied St Helier's from 1894 until his death in 1931. The doctor was known to the pupils of Campbell College as "Spotted Dick" and, for a variety of reasons, he elicited much derision from CS Lewis and his brother. An inventory of his domestic possessions at the time of his death was even less impressive than those of Labarte - with eight Chippendale chairs attracting the highest valuation of just £21.

St Helier's - which as late as the end of the 20th century, when it was occupied by the Short & Harland Staff Supervisors' Club, was reputedly haunted as a result of the suicide of one of Leslie's daughters in 1917 - was among a number of substantial mansions built in east Belfast around the beginning of the 1860s.