Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Finnebrogue Revisited

Finnebrogue House (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

Quoile Countryside Centre was a haven of tranquillity yesterday morning. I spent fifteen or twenty minutes there en route to Finnebrogue, Noel Lamb's beautiful country estate near Downpatrick, County Down.

Finnebrogue is close to the River Quoile, and within sight of Down Cathedral in the far distance.

The big house emerges as you make your way along the winding drive, through mature woodland.

(Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

I've been at the house before, though that must have been four or five years ago; so it was fascinating to see many of its features once again.

Finnebrogue is one of the oldest inhabited houses in Northern Ireland, dating from the early 1660s.

The exterior is largely original, though the interior needed considerable refurbishment following a fire in 1795.

Watchful Gargoyles (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

I'm sure it's one of the largest country houses in County Down.

We had coffee on the front lawn, close to the ha-ha which Noel had constructed, and I can verify that it serves its purpose well.

Cattle could be seen in the adjoining field, though were unable to cross over the ha-ha.

(Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

We were blessed with fine weather, so after coffee we strolled past a deer park and through woods to the old pleasure garden.

This area is in the process of being cleared due to the proliferation of laurel.

The Kiosk (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

Noel showed me a little summer-house that he is restoring, known as The Kiosk.

Until relatively recently it was roofless and overgrown, though this little summer-house has been restored.

I gather it dates from about 1802. It leans against the south wall of the walled garden, and is canted or five-sided.

Its fa├žade is rendered, and the chimney emerges from the wall behind it.

Before I left Noel showed me the cavernous basement, one door of which is believed to be 360 years of age.

Some of the stone steps leading to the old kitchen are almost hollowed out with wear over generations of servants or staff.

It was like stepping back in time and wonderful that such a historically important house in Ulster has been fully restored and maintained.

In fact Dr Anthony Malcolmson is currently writing a history of Finnebrogue.

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