Mount Stewart, April 2011
|Built for||Marquess of Londonderry|
|Architect||George Dance, William Vitruvius Morrison|
|Designated||20 December 1976|
|Reference no.||HB24/04/052 A|
Mount Stewart is an 18th-century house and garden in County Down, Northern Ireland, owned by the National Trust. Situated on the east shore of Strangford Lough, a few miles outside the town of Newtownards and near Greyabbey, it was the Irish seat of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family, Marquesses of Londonderry. The house and its contents reflect the history of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family, who played a leading role in British and Irish social and political life.
Mount Stewart was formed by the Stewart family (later Vane-Tempest-Stewart), holders of the title Marquess of Londonderry since 1816. The family bought the estate in 1744 with money acquired by Alexander Stewart (1699–1781). This new wealth came from the sales of materials like linen. At the time, the house was known as Mount Pleasant.
Alexander Stewart's son, Robert Stewart, became the first Marquess of Londonderry. In about 1800 he added a temporary wing to the west. He died in 1821 leaving the house to his son, also Robert, better known as Viscount Castlereagh, one of Britain's most famous Foreign Secretaries. Castlereagh lived in Mount Stewart during his childhood until he went to University in Cambridge.
Lord Castlereagh inherited his father's title only a year before his own death. The next owner of the house was his half-brother, Charles, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry (1778–1854). He married twice but it was his later marriage which increased the family's finances greatly. His second wife was Lady Frances Anne Vane-Tempest. She was the greatest heiress of her time. This huge new wealth prompted the refurbishment and enlargement of the newly renamed Mount Stewart. Controversially the Londonderrys, while spending £150,000 on the refurbishment only gave £30 to famine relief in Ireland in the 1840s, despite the fact that the Londonderry estates were directly affected by starvation, illustrating the inhumanity that existed within Ireland at the time. This remodelling created the present exterior of Mount Stewart. The small Georgian house and the small portico on the west wing were demolished and the house was increased to eleven bays. On the entrance front, a huge portico was added in the centre, and a smaller 'half portico' was added to the other side.
The marriage also brought in much of the Vane-Tempest property, including land. Wynyard Park in County Durham was also redesigned in the Neo-classical style. The couple bought Seaham Hall, also in County Durham, and then later bought Holdernesse House on London's Park Lane. This was later renamed Londonderry House.
The 4th Marquess of Londonderry married the widow of Viscount Powerscourt and lived at her home, Powerscourt, near Dublin. The 5th Marquess lived at his wife's ancestral property, Plas Machynlleth in Wales, and his son, the 6th Marquess, lived at Wynyard. These long periods of neglect nearly destroyed Mount Stewart.
The 7th Marquess (1878–1949), a well-known Ulster Unionist politician, and his wife brought a new lease of life to the house and its plain grounds. The Marchioness of Londonderry's ancestral home was Dunrobin Castle in Scotland and it was that house's gardens which inspired the Mount Stewart's. She also redesigned and redecorated much of the interior, for example, the huge drawing room, smoking room, the Castlereagh Room and many of the guest bedrooms. She named the latter after European cities including Rome and Moscow.
After the house's interior, the Marchioness redesigned the gardens in the most lavish way possible. Prior to her husband's succession to the Marquessate in 1915 the gardens had been plain lawns with large decorative pots. She added the Shamrock Garden, the Sunken Garden, increased the size of the lake, added a Spanish Garden with a small hut, the Italian Garden, the Dodo Terrace, Menagerie, the Fountain Pool and laid out walks in the Lily Wood and rest of the estate. In 1957, she gave the gardens to the National Trust.
The National Trust
The National Trust took over the gardens in 1957. The last chatelaine of the house (and the last surviving child of the 7th Marquess), Lady Mairi Bury (née Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Dowager Viscountess Bury), gave the house and most of its contents to the Trust in 1977. The Trust operates the property under the name "Mount Stewart House, Garden & Temple of the Winds". Lady Mairi Bury was the last Londonderry family member to live at Mount Stewart, and the last member of this Anglo-Irish family to live in Ireland when she died at Mount Stewart on 18 November 2009, at the age of 88.
Mount Stewart had many good and bad times. It was in almost permanent use when the 3rd Marquess was alive and was greatly extended to become the principal family residence. It was increased in size greatly with a collection of new rooms which were suitable to house the family's growing art collections, furnishings and general treasures. The main room was (and still is) the 'Drawing Room'. This looks out onto the main gardens and in the past it would have been possible to see Strangford Lough. Another main entertaining room was the 'Dining Room' which looks out onto the entrance front and was almost twice its present size, but was altered to make a new kitchen some time after its construction and lavish decoration. One of the most stunning rooms at Mount Stewart is that of the private 'Chapel'. This hidden gem is a double-height room with stained glass windows and Italian paintings on its walls.
The present-day estate of Mount Stewart extends to 98 acres (40 ha) with a large lake and many monuments.
The Temple of the Winds
This octagonal building was inspired by the Grand Tour the 1st Marquess took in his youth. Many country houses in the UK had adaptations of the 'temples' their owners had seen on their tours of the Mediterranean . It is similar to ones at Shugborough and West Wycombe Park, both National Trust properties. It was designed by architect James 'Athenian' Stuart in 1782–83.
Tír na nÓg
Tír na nÓg, Irish for 'Land of the Young', this is the Vane-Tempest-Stewart's burial ground. The 7th Marquess and his wife Edith, Lady Londonderry, are buried here. Around it are statues of Irish saints. More recently their daughter, Lady Mairi Bury, was buried there in November 2009.
- Dunduff Castle, South Ayrshire, property of the ancestors of the Stewarts of Mount Stewart
Other residences of the Marquesses of Londonderry:
- Londonderry House in London
- Plas Machynlleth in Wales
- Seaham Hall in County Durham
- Wynyard Park in County Durham
- Loring Hall in Kent
- University College Cork records on the Irish Famine
- "Lady Mairi Bury: Chatelaine of Mount Stewart who met Hitler and Von Ribbentrop". The Independent (London). 27 November 2009.
- "Chatelaine of Mount Stewart who preserved great house's gardens". The Irish Times. 12 December 2009.
- "Lady Mairi Bury". The Daily Telegraph (London). 13 January 2010.
- "Mount Stewart Gardens". UNESCO.
- Mount Stewart House, Garden & Temple of the Winds information at the National Trust
- Virtual Tour of Mount Stewart House & Gardens Northern Ireland – Virtual Visit Northern Ireland
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mount Stewart.|