A Penchant for the Peculiar
There are two distinguished Georgian houses along the Causeway Coast with unusual fenestration. Rockport Lodge just beyond Cushendun appears to have missing windows on the canted flanks of its outer bay windows on the south elevation. Mount Druid high above Ballintoy appears to have the middle windows missing in its two bay windows on the north elevation. Forget the wild weather resistance of yore: a modern sensibility would be to capture from all angles such a view sweeping down to the incredibly untouched Ballintoy Harbour. Mount Druid’s mildly idiosyncratic face to the world (the entrance front is actually the more regular five bay south elevation looking into the hill) is austere – an attribute noted by writers as being highly suitable to this bare landscape. White painted walls against the dark hill add to the stark grandeur of Mount Druid. Waves lap up to the white painted walls of Rockport Lodge. It too has a more conventional entrance front, four bays facing westwards inland.
Sir Charles Brett includes both houses in Buildings of County Antrim. On Rockport Lodge, the once Belfast based full time solicitor part time architectural writer records, “According to Boyle, in 1835, the house ‘the summer residence of Major General O’Neill is a modern two storey edifice, and very commodious’. It was valued on 9 August 1834 at £20.13.0 of which £2 was added ‘for vicinity to sea, being a good situation for sea bathing’… soon after the name of General O’Neill was struck out, and that of Matilda Kearns substituted. Her name in turn was struck out in 1868, when Nicholas Crommelin moved here from The Caves, the house being valued then at £38.”
Five Big Houses of Cushendun is a smaller book written by Sir Charles Brett. It includes Rockport Lodge: “The handsome white painted house, hugging the shoreline, can be dated with some accuracy to 1813. It does not appear on William Martin’s conscientiously detailed map of 1811 to 1812; but Ann Plumptre, who was here in the summer of 1814, wrote that Cushendun ‘is an excellent part of the country for game; on which account Lord O’Neill, the proprietor of Shane’s Castle’ [in fact, his younger brother] ‘has built a little shooting box very near the shore, whither in the season he often comes to shoot’. It stands between Castle Carra and the sea. The south front facing across the broad curve to the village, consists of three canted bays, set in a zigzag under the wide eaves, leaving triangular recesses in between: five 16 pane windows on the ground floor; three more, and two oculi, in the upper floor. The entrance front, of four bays, has wide Georgian glazed windows and a pleasing and unusual geometrical glazing pattern in the recessed porch.”
The entry for Mount Druid in Buildings of County Antrim reads, “A remarkable house, on an extraordinarily prominent (and exposed) hillside, looking out due north across the North Channel to the cliffs of Oa on Islay. The house is of two storeys, on a generous basement, with tiny attic windows in the gables; in principle, seven bays wide, with generous canted bays facing north – but the central face of each bay is blank – as Girvan says, ‘giving a very bleak effect, not inappropriate to the inhospitable position.’ Between the bays, a tall round headed window lights the upper part of the staircase, an oculus above and below. The remaining windows are 15 pane Georgian glazed. There are six chimneypots on each stack; the doorcase in the square porch in the entrance front facing south is modern.”
There’s more: “The vestry minute book for the parish contains the following uncommonly useful entry: ‘There was 40 acres granted by Alexander Thomas Stewart Esq of Acton to Reverend Robert Traill and his successors, Rectors of Ballintoy, in perpetuity, for a glebe, in the townland of Magherabuy on the ninth of August 1788. Rent £25.5.0. In May 1789 Mr Traill began to build a Glebe House and got possession of it on the 14th November 1791 – changing the name of the place from Magherabuy to Mount Druid, on account of the Druid’s Temple now standing on the Glebe.’ Unfortunately, despite this wealth of documentation, there is nothing to say what builder, mason, carpenter or architect was involved: no payments appear in the vestry book since Mr Traill evidently paid for the house out of his own pocket.” The similarities between the two houses may not be entirely coincidental. Charlie wondered if Rockport Lodge could be the work of the same architect or skilled builder as Mount Druid?