Sunday, 9 February 2020

Castlewellan: Moorish Tower

During my visit to Castlewellan Park, County Down, in February, 2014, I came upon the ruins of the Annesleys' charming little Moorish Tower.

Keyhole entrance

This ruinous gazebo is located at the west, or north-west, end of the lake, on the edge of a steep slope.
The Annesley crest, incidentally, features a Moor's head; and William Armytage-Moore (1806-83), coincidentally, was brother of Priscilla Cecilia, Countess Annesley (wife of the 3rd Earl) and land agent to the 3rd and 4th Earls.
The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) wrote about the tower in its 1976 gazetteer of historic buildings in the Mourne area of south County Down.


In 2014 the tower was obscured by forestry, its superb prospect obscured by fir and pine trees.

It was built in 1884 by Hugh, 5th Earl Annesley.

Lord Annesley was the third largest landowner in County Down, with about 25,000 acres, extending from Slieve Croob to Slieve Donard.

Basement entrance

The UAHS described the Moorish Tower in 1976 as being in ruins, built on the edge of a steep slope.

About twenty feet in diameter inside and hexagonal in shape, the rusticated basement of great random granodiorite blocks, battered, with a doorway facing east.

The first floor made of smooth Victorian brick, a little porch on the opposite side from the door in the basement, a fireplace in the side to the left, no window in the side to the right.


The other three sides have Moorish, key-hole-shaped windows.

Both inside and outside, the brick walls had wooden strips for battening or plastering or, outside, slate or log-hanging.

The roof was slated (the gazebo is now roofless).

The gazebo was originally clad outside in vertical split logs, dentils under the gutter, the porch doorway under a shallow gabled roof with barge-boards.

photo credit: Follies Trust

It stood under mature trees in an idyllic position.

photo credit: Follies Trust

The prospect overlooking the lake was also idyllic (and still is), though this little gem is now a neglected, ruinous, roofless shell, shut in by forestry.

THE GREAT NEWS, however, is that The Follies Trust has received a grant from the  NGO Challenge Fund, sponsored by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Forest Service, to undertake initial conservation work to the Tower.

When surrounding trees are cleared as part of the conservation process, the tower’s prospect of the demesne lake, Irish Sea and Mourne mountains will be restored.

Work commenced during the summer, 2014.

March, 2015
First published in February, 2014.   Annesley arms courtesy of European Heraldry.


Anonymous said...

Great to see work is well under way. I am grateful for the information on this site as I am taking a group of walkers around the forrest at the beginning of December

Timothy Belmont said...

Thanks so much for letting know. I'm glad to heR work is under way.

Please feel free to comment again on your visit.


Demetrius said...

Hugh, 5th Earl Annesley seems to have had a career parallel with General Charles Gordon in many ways. Were they close at any time? In 1884 Britain had become entangled in Egypt and that part of the world. Building a Moorish tower then is interesting in that context.

Timothy Belmont said...

Indeed, and whether by coincidence or design, the Annesley crest is a Moor's head.