New exhibition, “Church, Lace and Army: A history of the Fermanagh Tottenhams” opens at Enniskillen Castle  

11th April 2022

Opening of Tottenhams Exhibition

Fermanagh County Museum in partnership with Fermanagh Genealogy Centre (FGC) is hosting an exciting exhibition at Enniskillen Castle focussing on one of Fermanagh’s most distinguished families, the Tottenhams of Ely Lodge.

The exhibition, which was officially opened by the Vice Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Chris McCaffrey, has been meticulously researched and drawn together by the Fermanagh Genealogy Centre, located at Enniskillen Castle.

The exhibition highlights the pivotal role of the Tottenham family in the development of the local lace industry through Emily Frances Tottenham (née Maclean).  Emily Frances, wife of George Tottenham, together with her sisters, established a world class lace industry ‘Inishmacsaint Lace’ in the county. Located at times in various sites, including Benmore House, this highly prized lace was worn by Queen Alexandria, wife of Edward VII, at his coronation.

Speaking at the launch of the exhibition, Vice-Chair Fermanagh & Omagh District Council Chris McCaffrey said:

“The Tottenhams of Ely Lodge are one of Fermanagh’s most distinguished families and this exhibition highlights their role within the County which has established a lasting legacy not only here in Fermanagh, but worldwide.

The family played a key role in the local lace industry through Emily Frances Tottenham who established the world class lace industry ‘Inishmacsaint Lace’ along with her sisters while the family also played a key role in the life of the Church.

Exhibitions such as this which explore family history and ancestry are important to ensure that the culture and heritage of our District is retained.  Ancestral research can help to bring history to life and enable us to understand how our ancestors lived and the challenges they faced which can inspire us to be more resilient in our lives.”

The Tottenhams assumed ownership of the Ely Lodge estate in the later 18th century. The family also played a key role in the ecclesiastical life of the District Robert Ponsonby Tottenham served as Anglican Bishop of Clogher from 1822 until his death in 1850  while one of his sons, also named George, was Rector of Inishmacsaint parish church from 1865 to 1903.

The exhibition illustrates the careers of two brothers’ involvement in the army. Other display panels illustrate the breadth and range of the influence of the Tottenham family beyond Fermanagh too.

Through this exhibition, the FGC has been able to demonstrate its researching techniques which have helped to so eloquently unlock the past of an illustrious local family.

Speaking at the exhibition launch, Chairman of Fermanagh Genealogy Centre, Frankie Roofe said

“Fermanagh Genealogy Centre is pleased to co-present, alongside Fermanagh County Museum, an exhibition on the Loftus-Tottenham family of Ely Lodge, County Fermanagh. This prestigious family’s origins in Ireland date back to Queen Elizabeth I. She appointed the Yorkshire man Adam Loftus as Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He also founded Trinity College Dublin. Through his Loftus family (he had twenty children), marriage eventually led down the generations to the Loftus-Tottenham’s inheriting the Castle Hume estate, where the Earls of Ely established their Fermanagh home. 

FGC members have revealed the breadth of the Loftus-Tottenham legacy established in Fermanagh, none more evident than the Inishmacsaint lace industry created by Emily Frances Maclean, wife of the Rector of Benmore Church, Rev. George Tottenham.” 

The volunteer-run Fermanagh Genealogy Centre’s aim is to promote the heritage of Fermanagh along with the study of family history. It offers beneficial volunteering opportunities to learn and develop family research skills as well as organising free consultations at Enniskillen Castle.