Monday, 6 March 2017
It led us right through the forest and woods of the demesne.
Eventually a small building beside elaborate railings came into sight.
As we approached it, we could see that it was a lovely old gate lodge.
It was dignified and neat in appearance; white-washed walls, with twin lofty chimneys and recesses at the gables.
All the woodwork, including the front door, window frames, decorative wooden valances and finials, was pale golden yellow as displayed on the Bangor Arms.
The roof was of slate and steeply raked.
The gable wall recess closest to the dark green gates and railings was resplendent with a large coat-of-arms of the Viscounts Bangor, sufficiently conspicuous to impress Victorian visitors and guests in their horse-drawn carriages.
We had chanced upon Downpatrick Gate Lodge.
It captivated me instantly; to the extent that, subsequently, we made inquiries about its availability and even obtained the keys to view its interior.
The lodge was obviously derelict; though I recall a large black cooking range.
Outside, at the former rear garden, it was overgrown and there was a steep decline to fields and the countryside.
The head gardener, a Mr Skillen, used to live in the Lodge.
I was so interested in renting it that the then administrator, Lieutenant-Commander Hubert Mullan, drove us back there several times and invited us up to his flat at the top of Castle Ward House to discuss the matter in more detail.
In the end it all came to nothing. I got cold feet.
Downpatrick Lodge sits at the extreme western side of Castle Ward Estate, at the edge of a forest.
This, I am sure, was formerly the main entrance to the Estate since the railings and gates are so grand; as is Downpatrick Lodge itself, though not in a pretentious way.
This little lodge really is hidden away, out of sight, at the extremity of the estate.
I am delighted to learn that Downpatrick Lodge has come alive again, fully restored and fit for the 21st century.
Several years ago it became a National Trust holiday home available to rent, along with the Potter's Cottage at the old farmyard.
Incidentally, Terinichol and the Black Causeway Cottage also used to be available for rent to the general public in the 1980s.
In the late seventies, an erstwhile Recorder of Belfast, His Honour Judge Topping, rented Black Causeway House for part of the summer every year.
First published in May, 2009. Bangor arms courtesy of European Heraldry.