If a building is mentioned by the two scholars Nikolaus Pevsner and John Summerson, it’s worth visiting! “Eltham is very much a domestic house, not a grand palace, built in the clean air away from the plague and fire of the city,” he explains. “In the 1960s the cupola was removed – there may have been a rooftop terrace originally. In 1663 there were five dormers on each roof plane which can be seen in early drawings and as evidenced in the timberwork of the roof. These have been since reduced to two on each elevation. The formal gardens with fruit trees and the tapestries in the Great Chamber have all gone.”
Grinling Gibbons joined Hugh May’s team: his offset Great Stair is fully preserved. “In 1893 Eltham Lodge became a golf club,” finishes John. “But the ethos of a house in the country has been retained. May’s mantra was ‘Let one room be turned to perfection and the rest to convenience!’” The King’s Bedchamber and East India Library on the first floor overlook the entrance. The architect went for broke at Eltham Lodge with suites of rooms turned to perfection.
James Gibbs is a member of that exclusive club of architects whose surnames have become adjectives. Gibbsian, Corbusian, Miesian, Palladian. O’Connellian will come. The South London guide continues, “The enviable clubhouse of the golf course is the house by James Gibbs built in 1726 for the Duke of Argyll and Greenwich (the grandson of the Duchess of Lauderdale of Ham House). Nine bays, brick and stone dressings. Basement, main and upper storey. Slender segment-headed windows with aprons. Brick quoins, parapet. The main accent on the garden as well as the entrance side a giant portico of Corinthian columns with frieze and raised balustrade, projecting only slightly in front of the façade, so that the space behind the columns is actually a loggia. On the entrance side the effect has been spoiled by a tall extension forward of the portico. On the garden side a splendid open stair towards the entrance, starting in two flights parallel with the façade and then joining up into one. The plan is typically Palladian. The centre is a cube room which runs through from front to back portico. The other rooms open out from it, and on the upper floor have to be reached from the small staircase. The cube room is luxuriously decorated: giant coupled pilasters, coved ceiling, marble fireplace, doorways with very finely designed heads and pediment – Gibbs at his most baroque.”
“The garden front portico is in antis and so shallow it doesn’t rob the Cube Room of light and prospect,” explains John. As for the 10 metre Cube Room: “Everything is resolved. It’s a robust ensemble. James Gibbs’ workshops would have pulled all of this together and produced presentation drawings for the client. The stucco work is so emphatic. The subtle beading of the coupled Corinthian pilasters is very Mies van der Rohe in its attention to detailing!” Sudbrook Park has been the very grand clubhouse of Richmond Golf Club since the end of the 19th century.
Over to Oli, “We looked in Somerset, we looked in Norfolk, but it just felt like we had roots here in Deal and we knew the area. It’s so close to London too. Also Deal is just such a cool place. It’s thriving and this property is just unbelievably beautiful so that made our minds up for us. The garden is enclosed by incredible woodland so it feels very remote and peaceful. Updown Farmhouse is unusual but it’s going to be a lovely place to be in, eat and to stay.”
Driving uphill out of Newry through Bessbrook suddenly on the righthand side behind a stone wall is a brilliant flash of mustard between the thinning greenery and vibrant orange of late autumn. Aha! It’s Derrymore House, a cottage orné on a grand scale. And a very charming one at that. John Richardson, its last private owner, donated the unfurnished house and its demesne to The National Trust in 1952. In that era of architectural freezing in aspic, a sympathetic three bay extension containing an entrance hall with a central fanlighted doorcase was demolished. The early 19th century extension filled the gap on the north elevation to complete a courtyard. Derrymore was returned to its original late 18th century magnet or long C shape. A purist approach indeed.
There are two canted bay windows: one with 82 small panes; the other, 90. At first glance, this would seem extravagant for Isaac Corry was responsible for introducing the Window Tax in Ireland. But he would have benefitted from a loophole that any window could be considered as one for taxation purposes if it was divided into portions less than a foot (30.5 centimetres) wide. Commercial pressure and building regulations dictating design are not a new phenonomen.
Derrymore is the forerunner to a spate of single storey (or at least just one level over basement) modest country houses erected in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in mid to south Ulster, especially around Rostrevor. A thatched roof draws Derrymore closer to cottage than country house in appearance although not in scale. Hugh Dixon explains in An Introduction to Ulster Architecture, 1973, “Occasionally the two traditions merge into a picturesque, Georgian vernacular style which is Ulster’s alone… undoubtedly the most ambitiously developed example of the type is the house built by Isaac Corry at Derrymore near Newry in County Armagh. Adopting both traditional materials and ‘architectural’ features like quatrefoil windows topped with label mouldings, the building is arranged as a series of small units round an open court.” There is a formality to the elevations, especially the symmetrical southwest facing garden front, at odds with the provincial roof material. A classic cottage orné combo.
Ever since, there’s been an unstoppable love of the lateral when it comes to self building in Ireland much to local planning authorities’ ire.
Before he died in 2005, Sir Charles Brett, architectural commentator and contributor to Ulster Architect magazine did a U turn on his view of bungalows in Ireland. As Chairman of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, he was a strong advocate of terraced houses. But in his later years, Charlie declared bungalows in many ways to be the rightful Irish vernacular, or at least an inheritor of the traditional cottage form. That is, single storey, rectilinear, narrow, practical.
The first publication dedicated to bungalow design was by the architect Robert Alexander Briggs. Bungalows and Country Residences: a Series of Designs and Examples of Executed Works (1891) states, “A bungalow in England has come to mean neither the sunproof squat house of India nor the rough log hut of colder regions. It is not necessarily a one storied building, nor is it a country cottage. A bungalow essentially is a little ‘nook’ or ‘retreat’. A cottage is a little house in the country, but a bungalow is a little country house – a homely, cosy little place, with verandahs and balconies, and the plan so arranged as to ensure complete comfort with a feeling of rusticity and ease.”
In her slim and eloquent volume Bungalows (2014), Kathryn Ferry explains, “Until the mid 18th century familiarity with the term ‘bunglo’ was restricted to the European community in India, but knowledge gradually filtered back to Britain. As conceived by the Victorians, a bungalow was a building concerned with relaxation and recreation… The late 19th century invention of the ‘weekend’ provided more free time; improved transport infrastructure made escape possible; and mass production of materials, and even of entire structures, enabled bungalows to be built on a budget.”
The two pairs of semi detached bungalows at Greenore on the Cooley Peninsula, County Louth, tick all the right boxes from their association with leisure and a coastal location to picturesque sweeping gables and many metres of the all important verandahs. The London and Northwest Railway Company developed Greenore towards the close of the Victorian age. A long gone hotel next to a railway station was built on the quayside for passengers travelling to Holyhead in Wales. At its peak a first class train could leave Euston Station in London at 8.45pm and arrive in Belfast at 9.52am including the four hour sea crossing. Greenore Golf Club opened in 1896. The bungalows, several grand villas and a street of parallel townhouses built for dock and railway workers are all intact. The port is now industrial, the luxury passenger ferries having long gone.
In 1970, just three years after Dorinda co-founded the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, along with Peter Rankin and Professor Alistair Rowan she wrote and published the Society’s List of historic buildings in Downpatrick. The introduction to the cathedral’s entry is: “A church has existed here since 530 AD when St Caylan was Bishop: early in the 12th century it was occupied as a house of Regular Canons of the Order of St Augustine, superseded after 1177 by Benedictines. The Church was destroyed by an earthquake 1245; pillaged and burnt early in the 14th century by Robert Bruce; rebuilt; destroyed by the English in 1538, pillaged and burn 1539; incorporated with a chapter by Charter 1609. In the 18th century it fell into disrepair. An Act of Parliament was passed 30 April, 1790, for restoration at the instigation of the Dean, the Honourable and Reverend William Annesley, and of Wills Hill, Earl of Hillsborough, and 1st Marquis of Downshire; ready for divine service 1818; vestibule and tower added, the latter completed 1826; totally disendowed by Irish Church Act 1869.”
The Service of Thanksgiving tributes were by architectural historians and authors Professor Alistair Rowan and Dr Anthony Malcolmson. Both spoke eloquently about Dorinda’s significant contribution to charities and culture in Northern Ireland, and in particular, architectural heritage. There were plenty of anecdotes of fun times too. Professor Rowan recalled Dorinda and her husband Henry arriving in fancy dress one evening at Leixlip Castle, County Kildare. The hostess, Mariga Guinness, was surprised to greet Dorinda in Little Bo Peep attire and Henry in cartoon character costume. Somehow there had been a miscommunication: it was a formal white tie dinner.
The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society’s entry for Denvir’s Hotel includes: “Originally 17th century. A date on the post is inscribed 1641, but the present appearance of the building is the late 18th century and early 19th century. A two storey four bay block pleasantly recessed from the street lined and flanked by two projecting three storey wings – all stuccoed with horizontal glazing bars. The east wing gives arched access to the hotel yards; the west has a gable to the street and, in the corner, a good late Georgian door of tripartite pattern, with grooved columns for the jambs.”
In the evening, back in the cathedral, internationally recognised musician Desmond Hunter performed an organ recital accompanied by the Balligan Consort (a nine voice choir founded by the late Norman Finley), celebrating the life and work of the late Lord and Lady Dunleath through their influential Music in May festival (1970 to 1980). Pieces covered four centuries from William Byrd’s Fantasia in C to the first performance of Fantasy-fanfare Ostendite Terram Occultatum by Northern Irish composer Dr Philip Hammond.
Desmond has written a short history of Music in May. Extracts include: “Lord Dunleath’s passionate interest in the organ and the success of the rebuilding of the Conacher Organ in Ballywalter Parish Church were probably key factors in sowing the seed that eventually led to the flowering of an organ festival… The first recital in 1970 was given, appropriately, by Norman Finlay, co-founder of Music in May.” Norman was Headteacher of Music at Belfast Royal Academy. “Each of the recitals was followed by an informal reception in Ballywalter Park, hosted by Lord and Lady Dunleath. This attractive addition probably helped to ensure a large attendance at the recitals.”
“After Lord Dunleath’s untimely death in 1992, it was proposed that an organ trust might be established in his memory. Discussions with Dorinda, Lady Dunleath, and others closely associated with Music in May initiated the process that led to the formation of the Dunleath Organ Scholarship Trust. The Trust was launched at a concert in Ballywalter in 1995.”
The postlude to Dorinda’s Service of Thanksgiving on 28 September 2022 was Wolfgang Mozart’s Laudate Dominum with soprano Lisa Dawson hitting the high notes to perfection. The early autumn late afternoon sunlight streamed through the glass doors of the cathedral, illuminating the vestibule, touching the tip of the nave with its warm glow. As everyone departed, beyond the sea of parked cars, a cross was momentarily silhouetted by the golden sun setting behind a silver edged cloud.
It was the poster boy of the 1970s, gracing the covers of various publications. Half a century later, a new generation of aesthetes is falling in love with the romantically named and romantically styled and romantically positioned Killymoon Castle. Richard Oram and Peter Rankin included a sketch of the south elevation on the cover of their Ulster Architectural Heritage Society Listings for Cookstown and Dungannon. “The Nash block is of ashlar, a strong roll moulding surrounding it at basement level. Behind, the earlier back-quarters are of rubble, castellated, buttresses added and certain windows enlarged by Nash, the roofs of graduated slates… Behind the house, a stable and farmyard, including a substantial two storey block with Gibbsian door surrounds.”
In another Ulster Architectural Heritage Society publication from last century, An Introduction to Ulster Architecture, Hugh Dixon, wrote, “Interest in the picturesque resulted in the Gothick castle style becoming a fashionable alternative to the neoclassical for country houses. Pioneered by Richard Payne Knight at Downton Castle, Herefordshire, the asymmetrical castle was made popular by the Prince Regent’s architect, John Nash, whose large practice extended to Ulster on several occasions. Killymoon Castle is clearly a sham unlike Gosford Castle (by Thomas Hopper, circa 1820) at Markethill, County Armagh, where really thick walls and correct medieval windows show a new more serious approach. Generally more popular in Ulster was the symmetrical castle, a type developed by Robert Adam in Scotland. Adam, indeed, remodelled Castle Upton in County Antrim (1788) in this style, although it has had later alterations. Among the best local designs are Necarne, Irvinestown, County Fermanagh (circa 1825) and the delightfully simple Dungiven Castle, County Derry (1839).”
Brian de Breffny included Killymoon in his Castles of Ireland and featured it on the dust jacket. “John Nash, the celebrated architect of Regency England, also designed a few buildings in Ireland, including some parish churches and four Gothick castles, two of which are Killymoon and Lough Cutra. Shanbally Castle, County Tipperary, which he built about 1812, was larger than either of these. The fourth castle, Kilwaughter, County Antrim, is a not very successful adaptation of an earlier house, and is now in a state of disrepair… Before he was engaged in radically transforming parts of London by such creations as Regent’s Park, Regent’s Street, Trafalgar Square and Carlton House Terrace, and before his work on Brighton Pavilion. It brought him other Irish commissions through the family connections of James Stewart, Member of Parliament for County Tyrone, the satisfied client… The house at Killymoon built by James Stewart’s father, William Stewart, who also built the nearby town of Cookstown about 1750, was largely destroyed by fire about 1800.”
Each publication has a different take on its castellation: the dressing of the original castle to complement the new building; the light hearted asymmetry; and the heralding of the architect’s popularity for designing castles in Ireland. Killymoon Castle was John Nash’s first – and finest – castle in Ireland. Dorothy Coulter, who lives in the castle with her husband Godfrey, knows its history well. “Killymoon Castle was built in 1671 by James Stewart who had bought the lease five years earlier from Alan Cooke, the founder of Cookstown. The Stewarts had come over from Scotland during the Plantation of Ulster. They set up two castles at that time: Killymoon and Ballymena Castle. Six generations later, the Stewarts left Killymoon in 1852. There are six houses built by the Stewarts still in Cookstown Old Town.”
The original building was mostly destroyed by fire in 1802. Dorothy reckons, “Colonel James Stewart built this castle a year later and it must have been a truly wonderful fairy tale to bring his beautiful wife Lady Molesworth to this romantic spot!” She points to his portrait in the central hall. “He met John Nash on his Grand Tour. James frequently visited London to gamble with the Prince Regent at Carlton House. Apparently he gambled Killymoon Castle one night with Prince Regent and lost it on the turn of the cards. I don’t envy him coming back to his wife after that! Fortunately the Prince Regent told him he could keep his ‘Irish cabin’. The other portrait is of his father William Stewart. He brought James back from the Grand Tour as he wanted him to stand for MP for Tyrone and he stood and he had the seat for 44 years. He was well liked. The estate changed hands several times after the Stewarts until timber merchant Gerald Macura bought it in 1916. He wanted to make railway sleepers from felling the trees.”
The Public Records Office Northern Ireland’s Introduction to Stewart of Killymoon Papers, 2007, sheds some light on Lady Molesworth, “In 1772 Stewart married Elizabeth Molesworth, daughter of the 3rd Viscount Molesworth. She was one of the survivors of a tragic fire in London in 1763, where she was living with her widowed mother. Lady Molesworth senior, two of her daughters and six of the servants were killed. Two other daughters were badly injured when they jumped from upper windows – one had to have her leg cut off after landing on the railings below – and a third was badly burned. Elizabeth Stewart became in 1794 a co-heiress of her late brother, the 4th Viscount Molesworth, and inherited a share of the Molesworth estates in Dublin City, near Swords, County Dublin, and in and around Philipstown, King’s County.”
A castle is not a castle without a ghost. Dorothy relates, “Gerald Macura’s 97 year old daughter came to visit us a couple of years ago. She’d such fond memories of the castle and told me how as a six year old child she used to hear ghostly footsteps going up and down the secondary staircase. She had that story built up in her head all those years. I said to her, ‘But there only is one staircase!’ We went on a tour of the house and upstairs she showed me something. There were so many different layers of paint over the door you could only see the shape of the frame so when we looked into that cupboard there was this other door that opened into a set of stairs that went up to James’s room in the top of the circular tower! He had a whole big bedroom suite that went out onto the balcony. She said it was really just the joy of her life getting back to Killymoon; she died not long afterward.”
Dorothy reveals, “My husband’s great grandparents lived over the bridge past those trees and these grounds came up for sale. His great grandfather John Coulter bid £2,000 on the grounds but all the bids were rejected. So six months later the Bank of Ireland put it up for sale again and he increased his bid by an extra £100 and this time it was to include the castle. He was successful so everyone thinks it was a great deal as he got the castle for £100! They moved in with their two sons Tommy and Jacky at the end of 1921.”
A suitably long drive winds through parkland and farmland, past the château-like 18th century stable block to one side, until the porte cochère of the castle finally appears. And there it is, the castle in all its glory, one of the great architectural moments of early 19th century Ireland – still unrivalled in early 21st century Ireland. The genius at work: rectangular, elliptical and polygonal components of varying heights fitting together like the pieces of an intricate three-dimensional puzzle, unified by Gothick windows, Romanesque detailing and a castellated roofline. John Nash added buttresses to the adjoining remaining portion of the old rubble stone castle and remodelled some of its windows to be more in keeping with his cut stone architectural masterpiece.
The interior is equally ingenious. A slender row of stairs connects the porte cochère to the tall spacious central hall. The piano nobile is elevated by a raised basement. “That’s the Stewart and Molesworth coats of arms in the stained glass over the front door,” highlights Dorothy. The central hall is linked by a Gothick arch to the staircase hall with its cantilevered stone stairs flying off in opposite directions like the wings of a dinosaur. John Nash knew how to deliver drama! Another great spatial flow running parallel with the inner halls is formed by an enfilade of four adjoining reception rooms overlooking the sloping lawn and field down to Ballinderry River. The variety of room shapes seems endless. Apses and niches and balconies and vestibules show such a grasp of spatial acuity. Oak detailing and ornate plasterwork define and refine the interior throughout. Window shutters concertina out from hidden cavities in the external walls. One of the reception rooms has 1800s wallpaper which survived a major flood.
Dorothy continues, “American soldiers occupied the estate from December 1943 to February 1944. Officers stayed in the castle while paratroopers were housed in Quonset huts. It was the 82nd Airbourne Division that was stationed here. We have retained one of the brick huts built near the river as a cottage for holidaymakers. One of the castle bedrooms has been restored as an officer’s room with militaria and uniformed mannequins. The cellars are now a military museum with a permanent signal post, muster station and officers’ mess. There was a German prison of war camp at the top end of the town. We’ve a lot of letters from the American and German soldiers – they’re all down in the cellars. Killymoon is part of the heritage of Cookstown. It needs people in it to keep it alive.”
“We decided whenever we got married to restore the long end of the castle in the 1970s. Tommy lived down in the back end of the castle.” She continues the tour, “In 2000 we restored the big upstairs library. This room was in ruins – the ceiling was completely down, there were trees growing in it. I said to the builders there’s a ceiling like Nash’s original one here in Kildress Parish Church. They were able to copy the church’s ribbed plasterwork ceiling. The timber floor is new too. The only original features to survive are the windows which date back to the 1600s. One of the bedrooms had no ceiling as well. It was like the planetarium where you could look right up to the sky!”
She adds, “In 2016 we opened the tearoom. On our first day the queue of people stretched down the drive! Our candlelit Christmas dinners have proved a real success. We’re sold out already. It’s a family affair – the grandchildren get their dusters out and we light all the fires. When you see the castle being used for different functions, it brings it to life. We’ve had people visit here from all over the world. We are very busy with group tours too.” Today, afternoon tea is served in the east and south facing Lady Molesworth’s morning room with views (once admired by Queen Mary, wife of King George V) across the 122 hectare estate. Under the shallow dome laced by a patera frieze, potato and leek soup is served in china cups on saucers. Grandfather clocks tick and chime to the passing of time.
Fancy living it up like a lord or lady of the manor? Well high up on a hill in Bakewell you can for a night, a week or a bit longer. The rugged Grade II* Listed Bagshaw Hall now includes suites of holiday accommodation. The 1684 symmetrical main block is remarkably intact. An early 17th century range is to the rear of the main block and a 19th century wing extends to one side. The external materials are deep coursed sandstone with ashlar dressings, darkened over time. Surrounded by later development, Bagshaw Hall still holds its own in a commanding position overlooking the town centre.
Margaret Flood, Headmistress of St Elphin’s School 1910 to 1933, wrote a history of the first official century of the school. She opens with, “Although St Elphin’s School was actually founded in the year 1844, its roots go back to a much earlier date. It can, in fact, trace its origin to the year 1697… I myself well remember these great anniversary occasions in the years between 1896 and 1900, the service in the parish church, the dinner on not too mean a scale, with the moderate provision of wine for the guests, and a small barrel of beer set up for the servitors of the repast in the Staff Common Room!” She adds, “In 1904 it was decided to choose the Darley Dale Hydro as the future home of the school.”
Harrogate based architects SDA Jackson Calvert compiled an architectural statement to accompany the 2006 planning application by Audley Villages to Derbyshire Dales District Council for converting St Elphin’s School to senior living accommodation: “A classical villa was built on the site around 1820. In 1884 a new owner demolished the villa and replaced it with a large Victorian house known as The Grove. In 1889 the estate was sold again. The new owner converted the main house and opened it as the Darley Dale Hydropathic Institute and Hotel. After the turn of the 20th century the Hydro Hotel was failing financially and the estate was taken over in 1904 by St Elphin’s School. The site was occupied by St Elphin’s School until March 2005.”
A retirement village of 127 properties has been built around St Elphin’s House in the 5.6 hectare grounds. SDA Jackson Calvert explain, “Apartment buildings D and E are arranged as a continuation of the line of the main house façade fronting onto Dale Road South. Apartment buildings A and B are located on 2 separate terraces parallel to buildings D and E, each stepping up the hill with courtyards between. The proposed number of storeys in each apartment building reflects its location on the site and proximity to the existing main house. A study was also carried out of local vernacular architecture. Riber Village has been a source of reference as have the main house and chapel building on site. Traditional masonry detailing is adopted on all new buildings.”
In the low lying land on the periphery of Bakewell, the sweetest town in England, encircled by the hills of the Peak District, lies Haddon House Farm. The farmstead, paddocks and woodland totalling just over five hectares and forming part of the Haddon Hall Estate are currently available to lease. At the core of this mini-estate within an estate, up a short avenue, is the rambling Haddon House. Now receiving some tender loving care, it was previously divided into apartments: four on the ground floor, five on the first floor, and two on the attic floor.
The Grade II Listed house dates from a circa 1840 rebuilding around an 18th century core, with later 19th century additions and alterations. It is faced with deeply coursed sandstone and ashlar dressings. Earlier work is evidenced in places by limestone and roughcast. The roofs are of stone slate. The ensemble is in an attractive Tudor Revival style with an adjoining open courtyard of plainer buildings to the rear.