Sunday, 27 September 2015

Mount Panther


It is unclear who originally built Mount Panther or who lived in it prior to 1740, when it was known to be the residence of the Rev Dr Matthews.

One theory is that the original owner was the Rev Bernard Walsh, rector of Loughinisland in 1743.

There is no such ambiguity about how the historic house got its name: local legend associates the name Mount Panther with the Great Cat of Clough – a beast that is said to have prowled the area in ancient days.
The first famous inhabitant of the house was the celebrated writer Mrs Mary Delany and her husband, the Very Rev Patrick Delany, Dean of Down.

They stayed at the house for long periods every year from 1744 until 1760, as the Dean’s duties made his presence necessary in the diocese.
A niece of George, 1st Baron Lansdowne, confidante of GEORGE III and Queen Charlotte, a friend of the composer Handel and wooed by John Wesley, Mrs Delany was described in some quarters as “the highest-bred woman in the world.
In 1765, Mount Panther was sold by Bernard Ward to John Smyth of County Louth; and five years later it was put up for sale again, when Mr Smyth was appointed British Resident at Christianstadt, Norway.

The demesne was bought in 1772 by Francis Charles, 2nd Viscount Glerawly (afterwards 1st Earl Annesley), who had the front and return elevations remodelled in stucco. 

After his death in 1802, Mount Panther passed into the possession of the Rev Charles William Moore, rector of Moira.
The Moore family lived at the house until 1822, its most notable resident during this time being Hugh Moore, a captain in the 5th Dragoon Guards.
John Reed Allen JP, of Dunover, bought the property from the representatives of Major William Henry Rainey in 1832 for £12,000.

Major Rainey had acquired Mount Panther from the Moore family in 1822. 

When J R Allen died in 1875 his son George, high sheriff of the county, inherited the estate, which comprised 2,585 acres of land at that time.

Mrs Phyllis Charley, of Holywood, remembered visiting the house from time to time to have tea with her cousin George:
"He had very nice silver and china, and his high teas were good. Apart from the housekeeper, he lived alone, and only used two rooms in the house. His land steward was Hugh Killen."
When George Allen died in 1929, the house – but not the estate – went to a cousin, Lt-Col Thomas Gracey. The estate was split between three other cousins.
In 1931, Mount Panther was bought by the Fitzpatrick family, who still own it today.

Mr Fitzpatrick brought William McKibben (of Mourne) to work at the house, and the gatehouse was occupied by Jim Doyle, Dan Haughian, Owen Rice, and their respective families.
Joe Shilliday lived in the second gatehouse at the Clough end of the property. He was a survivor from the days when George Allen owned Mountpanther.
When war broke out in 1939, many valuable pieces of furniture from Belfast City Hall were stored at the house, and parts of the grounds were taken over by the US Army. 

Paddy Fitzpatrick died in 1957, and Mount Panther then passed to his eldest son, Seamus.
The most historic event ever to happen at Mount Panther took place on a Saturday afternoon in June 1963, when two black limousines swept up the drive.

His Excellency the Lord Wakehurst (Governor of Northern Ireland) stepped out of the leading car and enquired if Princess Margaret and her husband, Lord Snowdon, might come in to see the famous ballroom. Teresa Fitzpatrick recalled,
“I got the shock of my life when I opened the door. I brought the royal party through the kitchen and down the passage to the ballroom. They only stayed about 20 minutes chatting, and admiring the plasterwork, and then drove away. It was all over before I realised what had happened!”

THOUGH THE MANSION is ruinous and the gardens gone, this once beautiful landscape park retains many features of its former glory. 

The house lies looking down on pasture decorated with well disposed clumps of trees that made up the fashionable surrounding for houses of that era. There are fine views of Dundrum Bay beyond. 

Shelter belts and an avenue add to the planting. These trees have never been renewed and are coming to the end of their days, as most are beech.

A road now cuts through the parkland and a bungalow has been built in front of the house. 

There are extensive walled gardens to the rear of the house to the south-west, no part of which is cultivated. The Gardener’s House and offices are ruinous and the glasshouses have gone. 

An ornamental garden on the south side of the house shows vestiges of planting and an earlier Pleasure Ground was formerly laid out on the north side of the house, as shown on the demesne map of ca 1800. 

Stone walls are used within the demesne and reach the high ground of Cloughram Hill to the south-west of the demesne, where there is a collecting pond.

Water supply to the farm is controlled from here by a sluice gate. 

A pond on the north side is associated with a corn mill and later used for flax.

The School House is in the part to the north-east that is severed by the road.

The two remaining gate lodges, Newcastle Lodge and Side Lodge, both of ca 1830, are in poor condition.

First published in April, 2008. Annesley arms courtesy of European Heraldry. 


Anonymous said...

One of the most terrific houses. Alas, there wouldn't be much left of the ballroom now! Absolutely bloody criminal that the government refused to consider any sort of rates abatement, which may well have saved the place.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Moores mentioned are any relation to Sir William Moore over in Ballymoney?


daydream said...

ridiculous how they let mount panther go. i'm suprised that company who wanted to use it as a golfing resort didn't actually buy it, what a wonderful place; right on the road from belfast, and within distance of newcastle. it's doubtful that would have retained the original grand character of the building, tbh, but better than leaving it to decay. or they could have taken up the National Trust's offer, a la Castle Ward? i live within two miles of Mount Panther, oh what nice days i might have had there!

Irishlad said...

I'm about the same age as you Tim,and i rememeber traveling to Newcastle in the summers of 68/69 just before the 'troubles'to our caravan and looking up in wonderment at the 'big house'wondering who had lived there,who owned it and even as a young lad of 8 or 9 thinking how incongrous the wretched bungalow looked compared with the majestic albeit degenerate former mansion house.

zoffany said...

the plasterwork in malone house was produced from impressions of the originals in mount panther

zoffany said...

lovely house, plasterwork lives on in malone house

Anonymous said...

This is a grade B+ building when buying the land the facade has to be kept if you look at the back you can see that it has been greatly 'modernised' as such .... In the near future you could see some healthy progress... if planning goes a certain way new breath will bring life to this wonderful place and in time if everything goes to plan the house will be resurrected to its former glory over time. When I have more information and it is not as hush hush as it is at the moment I will let you know. Perhaps you would like to come with me the next time I am there which will be in the next couple of week. I would like that tremendously x J.

Anonymous said...

Is the house not too far gone at this stage, surely it would be impossible to re-instate??

Anonymous said...

The house is but a façade but planning will allow the use of modern building to reconstruct the house. The only thing that has to be done is an empathic restoration of the front façade, which is in remarkably good condition considering the its state. There may be things that need to be done in characher but the listing is based on the façade, as it is a grade two or B+ as the back house of the house was added to over the years. So yes even in its state at the moment it can be done but it will take years and a considerable sum.

Anonymous said...

I have dreamt about this house for years, I have bored all my family and friends about it!! WHEN I win the lottery I will buy it! Why do we have to concentrate all our time in N I to all the bloody religious nonsense when we have a National Treasure in our midst in dire need of some love( and money)

Anonymous said...

I would love to see Mount Panther rescued. Have travelled past it for the last 35 years visiting relatives in annalong and it breaks my heart to see it ! Would that it could be saved there are few big houses in this part of the country. What a treasure it would be. All the better if that hideous bungalow disappeared!

Anonymous said...

my great great grandparents use to live inside the house when they where children

Anonymous said...

Drove past today, still up for sale & derelict, what a shame, could be such a wonderful piece of history restored!

Anonymous said...

Lovely place. The old house and estate would be a great area to have a theme and hotel. NI is bad need of an theme park type attraction and this place would suit it perfect

Unknown said...

Does anyone know if there is access to the buildings? I survey for bats and would really like to see whats living there.


Anonymous said...

I see Mount Panther House everyday and I would love someone to restore it to it's former glory a beautiful house and gardens

Anonymous said...

On my way home from Newcastle and as my wife has always said that if she won the lottery she would buy it. Always said it was her dream house. Took a drive up a lane and abadoned the car just to take a walk up. It was stunning just to look at and is heartbreaking what has happened to it. Looks so lost! If anyone does ever buy it and needs an extra few hands my wife and I volunteer as it would be an honor to work on it.

Anonymous said...

I have to say I am another that has admired the house on many drives past. Like several others have commented before me, I have dreamt of the day I win the lottery and help to restore it to its former glory... What a fantastic project that would be. There would of course be a golf course attached, designed by Rory McIlroy... for the American market... haha

Anonymous said...

I always use to find it so scary as a child and even as a teenager seeing this house on the hill in the distance on the way to Newcastle from Belfast. Now as a grown up photographer / design graduate, i find it simply captivating, I wish I was rich I would love to see restored and stay there for a few nights, it so beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know how to contact the current owners?

Timothy Belmont said...

Anon, I'm sure if you contacted the estate agents, or supplied your email, they'd put you in touch.


Andrew Mcivor said...

Who are the estate agent?

Anonymous said...


I wonder if some of your many followers might have any information relating to the interiors and furnishings of Mount Panther prior to its abandonment - perhaps old photographs of the interiors, or even a catalogue from the dispersal sale/s?

Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

The HMSO publication 'An Archaeological Survey of County Down' of 1966 has many references and images. Belfast Central Library has (certainly HAD) a copy. I was fortunate to purchase a copy a three or four years ago. Hope this helps.

Timothy Belmont said...

Anon, many thanks indeed for the info. If I remember I'll call in the central library next time I'm in town.