Gosford Castle is situated in Gosford, a townland of Markethill, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, close to the border with County Down. Construction of the castle began in 1819 and finished in the 1850s. It was commissioned by Archibald Acheson, 2nd Earl of Gosford and the architect was Thomas Hopper, one of the leading London architects of the first half of the 19th century. It is the largest Grade A listed building in Northern Ireland.
The Ministry of Agriculture bought the estate in 1958, establishing Gosford Forest Park. In January 2006 the decaying castle was bought by a development company, the Boyd Partnership, which planned to turn it into private homes. In January 2008 the first residents of the new apartments moved in. The estimated repair bill was in the region of £4m, the nature of the development was selected by a government-appointed panel.
The style of Gosford is that of Norman revival, it being one of the few examples of this in the world. It was regarded by Robin Fredden, Secretary of the National Trust in 1952 as "one of the most original buildings of the first half of the nineteenth century", he further noted that it was "reputed to be the largest pile in Ireland", having some 150 rooms. Thomas Hopper, the architect, also designed Penrhyn Castle in Wales, which is in a similar style.
The 4th Earl of Gosford was forced to sell the castle's contents in 1921 and, during the Second World War, it was commandeered and used as prisoner-of-war camp. Following the war the Gosfords sold the estate and, eventually, it was acquired by the Forestry Commission. It was, for periods, occupied as a hotel, barracks and restaurant. It was also used during the Troubles in NI by the British Army. There is also a crypt hidden somewhere in one of the corners of the castle that has recently been sealed.
The park was the site of an Irish Scout Jamboree in 1989. "Gosford '89" was attended by over 3,000 scouts from around the world, including contingents from Canada, Japan and America. The Camp Chief was Wilson Lambe, and the co-ordinator was Mark Larmour. There were six subcamps as well as a staff subcamp.
The government regained possession of the castle in February 2002. The castle at this time was in a desperate state of disrepair and without urgent intervention was in real danger of becoming irretrievably beyond repair. Following lengthy negotiations, in 2006 a local developer and specialist architects, in partnership with the Northern Ireland Heritage Service, put forward a proposal to restore the castle. The agreed proposal was to turn Gosford Castle into 23 residences. The castle was sold to Gosford Castle Developments for £1,000 in January 2006, although the repair bill was estimated at £4million.
As many sections of the building have a degree of vertical independence, the principal sub-division of the castle was into vertically-separated dwellings. To achieve this, a team of artisans and craftsmen were recruited to create the individualistic homes of one, two, three and four storeys in height, set within the original fabric of the castle. The development retains the character and historic integrity of the castle by using existing staircases and walls where possible. Attention to detail included the restoration of original colour schemes in the principal rooms, such as the vaulted ceiling of the Inner Hall, picked out in gold; walls that were painted green to represent drapery; and a background of scarlet used to set off the library’s wooden bookcases. Residents began moving in to the apartments in January 2008.
Developers' images of the restored castle
- Views of Gosford Castle
- "Badges From Gosford '89". IrishScoutBadges.com. Retrieved 2008-05-31.
- "Forest castle bought for £1,000". BBC News. 9 January 2006.
- "Castle's residents enjoy being lords of the manor". Belfast Telegraph. 17 January 2008.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gosford Castle.|
- Gosford Castle, developer's website
- Gosford Castle, Gosford Forest Park website
- Gosford Castle, Queen's University Belfast
- Gosford Leisure
- Gosford Castle Accommodation