Thursday, 11 June 2020

Downhill: 1824


"THIS magnificent seat was erected by Frederick, 4th Earl of Bristol, Bishop of Derry, and is a proof of his great taste in architecture, a science to which his lordship devoted great attention.

It was bequeathed to its present possessor by the late Earl of Bristol, from whom, in the female line, Sir Henry Bruce is descended, and in the male line, through a noble and honourable race from Robert le Brus, a noble Knight of Normandy, who accompanied WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR into England.

The mansion is situated near Coleraine, on the edge of the sea, not far from the entrance to Lough Foyle; it is surrounded by pleasure grounds, planned with exquisite skill, the ruggedness of the soil being happily relieved by judicious cultivation of such shrubs as are best adapted to the spot.

The romantic Glen, including the Lawn, is curved nearly in the form of a horse-shoe, whose two heels are the openings to the north-west.

From the Lodge, on the Coleraine side, the road winds through a fine wood, having on the left a shady and sequestered glen; a small river runs through the wood, crossed by a bridge, much admired for the singularity of its architecture.

The view from the Strand Lodge displays at once the beauty of the grounds in front of the house, the rich verdure of the grass giving pasture to fine large Ayrshire cows and Merino sheep.

On either side of the lawn the plantation displays the grassy green of the larch, contrasted with the bluish hue of the pine and Scots fir; a romantic effect is produced by the appearance of the tabular and columnar basaltic rocks, whose naked protrusions, and wild ruggedness, prevent the smooth-mown lawn and decorated slopes from tiring the fancy too much by the recollection of artificial labour.

On the right, over the plantation, is seen the Mausoleum, erected by the late Earl of Bristol to the memory of his brother, formerly ambassador to the Court of Spain, where he proved himself a minister of great vigilance, capacity, and spirit, particularly with relation to the family compact between the Houses of Bourbon: he died in 1775."

The Mausoleum is virtually rebuilt by Stephen Price and Peter McMullan in a short video clip here. I'd urge readers to watch this.

"THE Mussenden Temple is a beautiful and singular erection, it is so called after a sister of Sir Henry Bruce, Bart, who married Daniel Mussenden, of Larchfield, County Down; she was a very beautiful lady, and left one son at her decease.

It is adapted as a library, and contains a small collection of books.

This building overhangs the sea, and the view of the Strand from thence, during a storm in particular, is truly magnificent; the prospect is bounded by a long range of the Donegal Mountains.

From the grounds is a view of an old chapel, now a ruin, adjoining which is the burying-ground containing the family vault; at other points the prospect is beautiful and continually varied: the disposition of the whole clearly evinces the hand of taste.

The interior of the mansion presents also the same claims to our attention; it is richly decorated, and abounds with works of art, collected by the Earl of Bristol.

In the entrance hall is a statue of the Fighting Gladiator.

The staircase is extremely light and elegant, it is of stone, with gilt balustrades, the walls painted in fresco, with rustic scenery: from the dome, in which is painted a representation of the Deity dividing light from darkness, depends a large glass chandelier.

In the corridors of communication are a variety of statues in niches, Flora, Minerva, Leda, Diana, Venus, Apollo, etc, and many busts.

In the dining-room, the chimney-piece is mosaic, upon which is placed a clock, with the figures of Telemachus and Mentor in a galley; the sideboards, at each end, are supported by Egyptian figures, and adorned with hieroglyphics in ormolu.

The ante-room to the library is adorned with appropriate busts, and the library, beside an excellent collection of books in four large mahogany cases, and one in the form of an organ, filled with various engravings, contains many curious specimens of art.

Also a very handsome large mahogany table, holding a musical clock.

The roof is a dome painted as sky, from which depends a glass chandelier.

A gallery communicates to the upper part."

Downhill House and Mussenden Temple are virtually revived by Stephen Price and Peter McMullan in this video clip, superbly done if I might add.

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