Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Ardress Transformation

Ardress House in County Armagh was built about 1680 as a plain, two-storey farmhouse, one room deep.

Between then and ca 1810 the house was extended and evolved in four stages into a substantial gentleman's country house.

The façade of the garden front, which faces south, shows three of the principal building stages: the dining-room wing to the left of about 1810; the drawing-room gable in the middle of ca 1780; and the original right-hand gable of ca 1680 with its elegant, curved wall screen added about 1810.

The National Trust heritage directory remarks:-
"The south façade of the house clearly shows the three main building phases: the right gable belongs to the 17th century, the left gable to the 18th century and the Dining Room wing to the 19th century."

"The second George Ensor transformed this potentially ugly side view into an elegant garden front by incorporating the hotch-potch of extensions into a five-bay facade."

"At either end he added curved walls which reach out gracefully on to the lawn, the right neatly joining and concealing the screen wall of the front façade."

"Four female heads have been placed in the niches of the screen walls."

"They are known as The Four Seasons although they were probably not intended to be allegories."

"Spring, on the extreme left, is signed by Christopher Hewetson (1739-99); the other sculptors are unknown."

As can be seen from the black-and-white photograph, the façade was rather ugly in appearance before its remarkable transformation by the National Trust.

The various stages were quite obvious and discrete in appearance; the curved wall to the right was obscured by a lean-to glass-house.

Today the garden front has been completely transformed by a much-needed facelift.

Lime render and white paint gives it a uniform appearance.

First published in May, 2016.


The Modern Aesthete said...

I live not far from Ardress and it has, for as long as I can remember, looked as it does in the first photograph (it was, until recently, a dusty pink colour). I don't think the National Trust can be credited with transforming a rather ugly house into a more handsome one; I personally cannot recall the rather unsightly lean-to and, the colour change aside, I was under the impression that the works being carried out at the moment were more structural than aesthetic (the house is listed, surely?).

I'm not sure if you know this, Timothy, but it is not possible to access the dining room (which houses some fine paintings on loan from Earl Castle Stewart) without going outside; the french doors on the garden facade allow access and there in another side door that opens onto a small courtyard on the other side of the house. There was once a conservatory linking the drawing room and the dining room.

I'm glad to see the National Trust spending some money on Ardress at last; it is a very pretty house in a wonderful, tranquil setting.

The Modern Aesthete said...

Oh dear, do ignore me... I have only just seen your "Ardress Visit" post (!)