Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Ballyedmond Castle


Ballyedmond Castle, near Rostrevor, is the County Down residence of the Lady Ballyedmond.

The demesne lies within the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

An earlier house is shown on the site on Taylor and Skinner’s map of 1777.

This house was built by a Mr Pollock and was owned in 1806 by Mrs Hamilton when her niece, Maria Edgeworth, visited it.

It was described in an 1836 Ordnance Survey Memoir as a “good plain two storey house with additions and in good order”, the residence of Alexander Stewart.

Ballyedmond Castle Hotel

It is believed by Major Reside that this house was demolished in 1848 and that Stewart built the current house the following year.

The architect was reputedly Sir Charles Lanyon, although no documentary evidence has been found to substantiate this claim.

However some of the details, e.g. tower, turret, corbel heads and window openings, are very similar to those of the Lanyon building at Queen’s University, Belfast, which is contemporary.

It is shown in its present form (without ballroom wing) on an 1859 map.

Ballyedmond House was sold to Mr Kelly Patterson ca 1880, who subsequently sold it to a Mr Douglas.

It was raided in the 1920s by Irish republicans searching for concealed UVF guns.

It is said that the garden terraces were constructed with compensation money the family was awarded for damage incurred to floors during the IRA raid.

The house was occupied during the 2nd World War by the United States Air Force, who constructed a camp (now gone) in the demesne.

In 1966 it was sold to Harris Hotels Ltd and converted into a ten-bedroom hotel at a cost of about £100,000 (£1.6 million in today's money).

The hotel was fire-bombed in a terrorist attack in 1979.

It remained a gutted shell until it was purchased by Dr Edward Haughey in the mid-80s.

Dr Haughey was created a life peer in 2004, as BARON BALLYEDMOND, of Mourne, County Down.

Restoration on the present mansion began about 1987.

In the past (before the construction of the present Killowen Road), the demesne extended further north than it does today and was bounded by the Killowen Old Road.

The original drive still remains between the Killowen Road (opposite the present front gates) and the Killowen Old Road entrance.

No architect was employed in the 1987 refurbishment; the most recent plans were executed by local craftsmen.

The grand staircase from Robinson & Cleaver’s Belfast department store dates from 1886-8 and was built by Robinson & Son of York Street, Belfast, to designs by Young and Mackenzie.

The original house (above) was a ca 1855 Victorian Tudor-Baronial mansion, with pointed gables, mullioned windows; a battlemented tower and conical-roofed turret.

Two gate lodges, since demolished, pre-dated the house and were built for Alexander Stewart.

In the 1870s the demesne extended to 347 acres.

One advertisement boasted of the former hotel as being

set amid acres of private parkland and terraced gardens with magnificent views over Carlingford Lough ... is one of the most luxurious in Northern Ireland; beautifully appointed apartments all with private bathroom, telephone, television and radio offer a high standard of comfort to the most discerning guest. Finest cuisine and wines.
The much altered mid-19th century mansion was in a splendid position between the Mourne Mountains and Carlingford Lough.

An even earlier house, Fort Hamilton, was visited and commented on by Maria Edgeworth in 1806.

According to the report in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of 1836, the garden was "neat".

The surrounding 200 acre demesne had mature deciduous shelter and parkland trees and later conifer additions, included when the park was extended to the west.

The site is exposed to winds coming across the lough but otherwise the climate is mild.

The gardens today have undergone extensive landscaping since 1988, on a 19th century framework.

Terraces on the south side of the house are linked by steps that lead to features at a lower level, where the lay-out is arranged in compartments on a circular theme.

The Lord and Lady Ballyedmond at Ballyedmond Castle

The north side of the present residence has balustrading at the carriage drive and ornamental planting since the 1980s.

The three-sided walled garden is cultivated, with a glasshouse.

The two aforesaid pre-1834 gate lodges, which belonged to the earlier house, have gone.

First published in July, 2011.


Anonymous said...

Very sad to learn of Lord Ballyedmond's death. His contribution to Northern Ireland's economy has been immense. He'll be remembered as one of NI's greatest industrialists and employers, alongside Lord Pirrie and the Mackie family in different eras. I hope Norbrook will continue to grow and prosper in his absence, hopefully in family ownership and with local management and employment. VC

Gavin Bamford said...

Very sad indeed about the noble Lord. I see two of your photos show the old Robinson & Cleaver's marble staircase installed in the gardens of his house. I had envisaged them in the interior but they look well. Can I copy one of them to another forum, please?


Unknown said...

Yes indeed, very sad. He started in a very small way, but must have had an enormous push & brain in him.
I worked in the, then, Ballyedmond Castle Hotel, back in 1970/71. It was a lovely place, and was sad to see it burnt to the ground, but like the Phoenix, it arose again.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. The Castle was still open as a hotel during autumn 1978 so perhaps the firebombing was winter 1978? The architects for the major refurbishment in the mid 1980’s were JLO’Hagan and Co Newry. The works included new roof and floors to all the house, the new ballroom on the west side, the insertion of the Robinson and Cleaver staircase from Belfast into the new main hall and the enclosing and upgrade of the circular service wing on the east side. After the main building works were complete, Lord Ballyedmond employed directly all the craftspeople for the fit-out and finishing. He also employed Design 11 Architects in Belfast early 1990’s to design the main brick boundary wall to the Killowen Rd. The new main gates and fencing were commissioned specially from a firm near Banagher Co Offaly.

Anonymous said...

46 years ago today , 30/12/ 72, we had our wedding reception at the beautiful Ballyedmond Castle.
The date given for its fire-bombing as 1972 in the article above is incorrect.

Timothy Belmont said...

Anon, many thanks for your information. I have amended the date to 1979. Tim.

Unknown said...

Had many conversations with lord Ballyedmond over the years actually interview me personally for a driving job after I left School all those years ago.
He did a lot for Newry

JKP said...

I spent every year as a boy on vacation at Kellown.The Pier as it was called was at the bottom of the garden at the Castle.Following a morning swim we then had lunch in the great hall at the Castle.This was in the fifties and I can remember the cuisine was out of this world.
The Military Prison camp was fascinating to see;It was beside the Castle.Apparently the US Military had the Castle as a chief headquarters.In the fifties the actual prison camp was all intact with all their camp huts and barbered wire.
JKP in Canada;31May2021.