Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Mount Stewart Cottage Ornée

Artist's Impression, Photo Credit: Ulster Archæological Society

The Ulster Archæological Society has published a comprehensive study of the ruinous cottage ornée at Mount Stewart estate, County Down.

The survey report was compiled in 2015 by Janna McDonald and June Welch.

I have selected extracts from the Survey hereafter:-

THE COTTAGE RUINS are on an elongated, oval mound, which is located in a small river valley between two small drumlins, known as Bell’s Hill and Cumming’s Hill to the north and south respectively.

A stream, known as the Glen Burn, makes its way from the north of the demesne to flow into Strangford Lough to the south.

The stream valley in this area is known as The Glen.

The stream loops around the south of the mound and a defined path runs alongside the stream.

There are many tall, beech trees on both sides of this path.

The trees are mature, possibly 200-300 years old.

There is an estate wall located beyond the stream.

This is a continuation of the estate wall on the south-east side of the stream, which is also a continuation of the wall from the Templecrone Church site.

At the top of this slope stand the ruins of the cottage ornée, like a small castle on a hill, surrounded by a stream, which in turn leads along a path to the Templecrone Church site to the north-east.

This former church site has also been surveyed by the Ulster Archaeological Society (Scott and Stevenson, 2015).

At the centre of the mound and to the north and west of the cottage ruins, a quarry is located.

Several quarries can be found throughout the Mount Stewart estate.

These quarries are marked on the demesne maps of 1834, but by 1858 all of them were disused.

One quarry is remarkably and conveniently close to the cottage site.

It is difficult to be precise about the dating of this particular site, but the Estate maps and the Ordnance Survey maps do provide some useful clues.

There is no indication of the cottage on the Geddes Estate map of 1779.

By 1834 the Ordnance Survey map indicates a building, which appears to be only half-roofed.

At first, this seemed to suggest a structure, which was built in two phases.

By 1858 the map indicated a building with its roof now complete.

By 1900 and thereafter, the Ordnance Survey maps indicated an unroofed building, which clearly suggests that the cottage had ceased to be used by the family.

It seemed that its lifespan of 60+ years had finally ended.

Today, only a romantic ruin survives, in this remote, rural landscape within the Mount Stewart demesne.

The cottage ornée at Mount Stewart is rectangular and aligned approximately east-west.

It measures 8.84 metres (29 feet) east-west and 7.8 metres (26 feet) north-south, with the remains of a bay window at the west.

The exterior wall thickness varies slightly between 53cm (21") and 56cm (22"), while the interior wall thickness is less, measuring just 45cm (18").

Fragments of roofing slates, some with surviving nail-holes are present across the site, suggesting that the building was roofed with slates.

North Wall, 2015, Photo Credit: Ulster Archæological Society

The north wall is largely intact and stands to a height of 2.65m (8¾ feet).

It has two openings.

One is 2.3m (7½ feet) in height and 1.57m (5 feet) in width and is probably a door opening.

The other is 2m (6½ feet) in height and 1.29m (4¼ feet) in width and recesses in the lower part of the opening suggest this was the location of a wooden sill, confirming its use as a window.

Both openings are splayed to the interior to enhance natural lighting.

Approximately half-way along the interior surface, the remains of an internal stone wall are present.

South Wall, 2015, Photo Credit: Ulster Archæological Society

The south wall is substantially complete, but a 1.5m (5 feet) section to the western end has collapsed, leaving 7.3m (24 feet) in situ.

There is no evidence for windows or doors on this side of the building.

The height of the wall, where it exists, measures 2.75m (9 feet) from ground level to a layer of flat slates along the top of the wall, which may have acted as a damp-resistant layer.

East Wall, 2015, Photo Credit: Ulster Archæological Society

The east wall has evidence on the ground that it once had two windows and one doorway.

Only one window remains and its missing sill is clearly indicated in the photograph below.

It is possible that later the doorway became a third window.

Photo Credit: Ulster Archæological Society

Most of the west wall has collapsed, but surviving foundations and sections of masonry in the area suggest that this was once an elaborate bay window, with three windows supported on stone piers.

This expansive bay window would have afforded excellent views from the cottage towards The Glen below.

It is uncertain whether this was an original feature of the cottage or a later addition.

There is evidence for one internal room within the structure.

It is located at the southeast corner and makes use of one of the windows on the east wall.

The internal room measures 3.68m (12 feet) in length and 2m (6½ feet) in width.

There is evidence for a doorway to the north, measuring approximately one metre in width.

Wall plaster was used on the internal walls of this room and some of this plaster remains visible.

The 1834 Ordnance Survey map shows the cottage with the eastern half of the roof shaded, suggesting that the western part was unroofed.

This leads to speculation that the cottage was initially built in two phases, but there is no evidence for this in the existing stonework.

Similarly, it was thought that the bay window was possibly a later addition, but the use of similar stone and brickwork as in the remainder of the building makes this less likely.

It would also appear that an earlier stone partition wall was partially demolished to allow greater circulation in the cottage, as the broken ends were faced with decorative brickwork.

It seems likely that the internal room was a later addition, as the north wall was not integral with the existing stone walls.

It is clear from the survey that this feature is not a folly, but rather a cottage ornée.

It is set in a remote part of the estate and would have been a welcome stopping-off point for the gentry, as they toured their estate.

It would have had exceptional views down the Glen River valley, enhanced by the provision of a large bay window.

This remains a most attractive feature within the Mount Stewart estate, especially in springtime, when the bluebells and other wild flowers carpet the landscape.

The National Trust may wish to consolidate and conserve the remaining structure in order to make it available to visitors in the future.

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