Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:
HB24/04/052 A

Extent of Listing:
House and garden structures and garden walls.

Date of Construction:
1820 - 1839

Address :
Mount Stewart & garden walls Mount Stewart Newtownards Co. Down BT22 2RU

Mount Stewart

Survey 2:

Date of Listing:

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:
Country House

Former Use
Country House

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
J5520 6968

Owner Category


Exterior Description And Setting

Large, relatively sober and restrained, two storey hipped roof Classical style country house in greywacke snecked rubble with large sandstone port cochere and dressings, which took its present form in c.1835-40 when the 3rd Marquis of Londonderry commissioned William Vitruvius Morrison to replace much of what was a largely eighteenth century dwelling whilst retaining (and blending in) additions to the west side of 1805 by George Dance. Now in the care of the National Trust, the property is set within a large estate on the east coast of Strangford Lough, roughly 2 miles north west of Greyabbey, and has a large gravel forecourt to the front (north east) and an elaborate ornamental garden to the west. The roof is covered in Bangor blue slates and there is a myriad of rendered chimney stacks with decorative cream coloured clay pots. There is a large central roof light dome (which lights the main hall and stairs) but this is not visible from ground level. Cast iron rw goods. Much of the S facade and portions of the N, are covered in greenery. The front (north east) elevation is dominated by a central large Ionic columned port cochere with entablature and pediment. Contained within the port cochere is the relatively modest main entrance with a timber panelled double door encased with simple pilasters, curved brackets, cornice and blocking course. To the left and right of the port cochere the walls project slightly; both of these ‘bays’ have central pediments. There is a similar pedimented ‘bay’ on the W elevation. To the rear or garden side, there is a central projection with pediment and single storey porch, again with Ionic columns. The carved arms of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart and Chaplin families were added to this pediment in 1924. At each end of the rear elevation is a full height semicircular bay. The section of the house to SE corner is shorter and less grand in appearance than the main house and merges with an even shorter, smaller, more informal ‘L’ shaped section which has brick dressings to openings, is partly brick built and was probably added in the late nineteenth century. On the N side of the SE section there is a small modern single storey extension constructed in concrete brick with a large concrete brick boiler chimney above. Much of this section is obscured by greenery so that it is not readily visible when observing the main house. Generally the windows of Mount Stewart are sash with Georgian panes. The ‘bays’ to the front and W side have tripartite windows, with a elliptical arched doorway on the ground floor of the W ‘bay’ now serving as another ‘tripartite window'. The windows on the ground floor of the rear on either side of the porch are French or casement in style. Setting There is a decorative balustrade (somewhat similar to that on the parapet), with urns, around the forecourt to the N of the house. The garden is situated to the immediate NW and SW of the house. It was begun by Edith, Lady Londonderry in 1921 who gradually developed it over a period of 35 years. The gardens are elaborate and very much a reflection of the tastes of their creator. The Italian garden to the south of the house is roughly square in plan and is approached from the terrace at its N side, via a flight of stone steps. All around this portion of the garden there is a low stone wall which has balustrades to the N and a tall row of evenly spaced columns to the S most of which each have been moulded in the fantastic shape of a monkey-like beast with an urn on its head and the shape of a human face further down the pillar. There is a different face on each pillar, each of which may have corresponded with a real person. In the centre of the S wall is are two sets of matching double pillars, with a griffin figure on top of each. Between these is a carved stone ‘basin’ beyond which a curved flight of stone steps (with moulded heraldic lions at each side) leads into the Spanish garden, a smaller rectangular plot with a small hipped pantile roof summer house at the S end. The central portion of this garden is sunken. In the middle of the E wall is a decorative set of stone steps which leads from a terrace (running N to S) known as the ‘Dodo Terrace’, because of the moulded Dodo figures on stone pillars near the steps. This terrace also has other fantastic (and otherwise) animal mouldings on pillars etc. along its length. At the S end of the terrace is a small stone garden is a small portico with a flat roof supported by a wall to the S and four Tuscan-like columns to the N. There are two orange coloured moulded griffin figures on the portico roof and moulded heraldic motifs on the rear wall. On top of the balustrade on the steps leading to the Dodo Terrace the is a stylised moulding of an ark. As one might expect, much of the garden wall are obscured by greenery. To the W of the house is the ‘Sunk’ garden, which, as its name suggests is sunken. It is square in plan and is joined further to the W by the ‘Shamrock’ garden, so-called because of its shape. Neither of these gardens appear to have any stone work or mouldings (their main features being of the floral variety including a topiary harp), but there is a set of decorative gate posts with moulded heraldic crown and swan motif and decorative wrought iron gates, to the N side of the Sunk garden.


Dance, George Morrison, William Vitruvius

Historical Information

Though the present Mount Stewart house dates from the first half of the nineteenth century, its origins can be traced to the mid 1700s. Alexander Stewart was the great grandson of John McGregor, a Scots Highlander who had migrated in Co. Donegal in the early 1600s, and who appears to have changed his name to 'Stewart' in an attempt to disassociate himself from the then attainted McGregor clan. Alexander became a successful linen merchant, working in both Belfast and London, who served in the Irish House of Commons as MP for Londonderry city for a short period. In 1737, he married his cousin, Mary Cowan, the heiress to a large fortune whose marriage settlement recommended that a portion of this inheritance be invested in real estate. Accordingly, Alexander and his wife acquired the Manors of Newtownards and Comber from Robert Colville in 1744, at the cost of £42,000. The Manor of Newtownards included the Templecrone demesne, situated a few miles south east of the town itself. Here Alexander built a modest house which he named Mount Pleasant. Plans discovered among the Londonderry Papers at PRONI (D.654/S1/16) in the mid 1990s, identified as the work of architect James Gibbs and possibly dating from c.1739, suggest that Alexander may have intended to construct a larger grander dwelling, however, this suggestion is extremely tentative and it is possible that they relate to properties subsequently acquired by the family in England.. In 1771, Alexander’s son Robert was elected to the Irish Commons as MP for Co. Down. As befitting this new status, and to accommodate Robert’s growing family, Alexander intended that the existing house should be extended. Work proceeded on improving and extending the now renamed ‘Mount Stewart’ throughout the 1770s, but by 1779 plans had been formulated for the building of an entirely new house, which evidence suggests was to be sited further to the north east, on Bean Hill (near the present farm yard). Alexander died in 1781 leaving Robert to press on with the plans for the construction of the new mansion and the development of the estate. In 1782 the Temple of the Winds was built, to designs by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart, and architect James Wyatt was commissioned to draw up plans for the new house; in the mean while, a ‘temporary’ west wing, with the main entrance on its west facade, was added to the existing residence. Due to crippling election expenses incurred in 1783, when he fought in vain to retain his parliamentary seat, however, Robert was forced to postpone the execution Wyatt’s plans, but his elevation to the peerage in 1789 (as Baron Londonderry) appears to have refuelled his need for a grander dwelling, and estate accounts from around this time show that considerable amounts were being spent on plantations, gardens and other preliminaries associated with the construction of the new building. Construction would have undoubtedly proceeded had not Londonderry been forced to spend the vast sum of over £30,000 on his son (also named Robert, later Lord Castlereagh) in the famous (or infamous) Down election of 1790. Thus, even though Londonderry rose to become a Viscount in 1795 and Earl the following year, lack of resources forced him to remain in his relatively modest two storey, stuccoed dwelling which despite the addition of the west wing in 1782/3 was never intended to serve as the finished article. It was not until 1804, possibly as a result of the entry of Castlereagh into the British cabinet two years previously, that steps were taken to substantially upgrade Mount Stewart. The west wing was largely demolished and a new grander edifice, with a ‘Grecian’ port cochere to the north, built to designs by George Dance of London. Mount Stewart remained in this form after the death of Londonderry (who had become a Marquess in 1816). Castlereagh who succeeded as 2nd Marquess, committed suicide in 1822 and Mount Stewart passed to his half brother, Charles William, the 3rd Marquess. Charles and his wife, Frances Vane Tempest, owned two other large houses in County Durham - Wynyard Park and Seaham Hall - as well as Holdernesse House in London, and although they did not neglect their Irish estate (many of the smaller buildings within the demesne date from this period), during the 1820s much of their resources were directed into the rebuilding of Wynyard and Holdernesse and the construction of a harbour at Seaham. Thus in c.1832-4 the compilers of the OS Memoirs somewhat disapointedly reported that Mount Stewart was ‘plain and small for a nobleman’s residence, consisting of 2-storeys, with a range of sleeping apartments on the ground floor which have been added to the house’ and ‘not a library nor painting in the house’, and whilst ultimately the demesne was ‘well laid out’ and exhibited taste, ‘the architecture of the mansion is not magnificent as might be expected, as a residence of a noble marquis’. The 1834 OS map appears to support these remarks, showing a, roughly ‘L’ shaped building with the Dance wing to the west and the irregular mass of the original house to the east. It is also revealing that although other descriptions of the demesne from this period enthuse over the beauty of the Temple of the Winds, Mount Stewart inspired little in the way of eulogy. During the next 15 years, however, the situation changed dramatically. In or around 1835 the 3rd Marquess commissioned Irish architect William Vitruvius Morrison to pull down the old house to the east and design a new section to join that built by Dance. An advocate of the Greek revival himself, Morrison repeated the features of Dance’s work throughout the new section using similar materials, creating a coherent largely symmetrical mansion worthy of the status of its owner, shifting the main entrance to the centre of the new north facade and building a large Ionic columned port cochere, a porch in the centre of the new south elevation and a rounded bay to the south east corner to match Dance’s to the west. A dome was placed in the centre of the roof to light the new full height main hall, with a similar dome to light another full height room to the immediate south of this, and a heavy balustrade was also added to the parapet to give final coherence to the design as a whole. Internally, the neo-classical theme was continued, with Ionic columns on the north and south sides of the octagonal main hall, and in the drawing room to the south. Substantial portions of the Dance wing were left untouched including what is now Lady Londonderry’s sitting room, the music room and the Castlereagh room as well as the staircase, but the former entrance hall was removed (with a bracketed tripartite window put in place of the former front doorway) and the dining room put in its place. Morrison died in 1838, probably long before his designs were ever completed, as estate accounts indicate that building was only finally completed in c.1848. The 3rd Marquess died in 1854. The 4th Marquess spent proportionally more time at Mount Stewart than his father (in whose memory he erected Scrabo Tower), however, his brother the 5th Marquess chose to live at his wife’s estate in Wales, and his nephew, the 6th Marquess lived mostly in London. During the First World War Mount Stewart was used as a convalescent home and in 1921 the 7th Marquess took up the post of Minister of Education in the Northern Ireland parliament and he and his family came to live at Mount Stewart. During the next thirty years Mount Stewart took on a new lease of life. Much of this was due to Edith, Lady Londonderry, the wife of the 7th Marquess, who has been described as ‘the most brilliant of all the Londonderry hostesses’. On visiting Mount Stewart for the first time in 1914, she described the house and its surroundings ‘as the dampest, darkest, and saddest place I had ever stayed in’. When she came to reside there permanently, therefore, set about transforming the physical surroundings of the house by completely redesigning the gardens to the south and west, repopulating them not only with diverse and exotic flora, but also with decorative models of fantastic animals moulded in chicken wire and cement by Thomas Beattie of Newtownards. Many of these models probably represent friends of Lady Londonderry, such as Churchill, Ramsey MacDonald and Carson, who formed part of her famous ‘Ark Club’ an informal dinning club originally founded by her during the First World War, in which each member was given the name of a bird, beast or magical character. Such leading political figures (as well as Nazi minister Ribbentrop) and members of the royal family became guests at Mount Stewart in the inter-war years as the house became one of the liveliest great houses within the British Isles. There were some not insignificant changes to the house itself during this period, with the addition of the arms of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart and Chaplin families to the pediment on the south facade, and the conversion of the full height south hall by with the installation of a ceiling, creating a smoking room on the ground floor and a bedroom above. The dome which formerly lighted the hall was removed also, and the entire house redecorated and largely re-furnished, mainly under the direction of Lady Edith. Mount Stewart served as a billet for Allied troops during the Second World War, and upon the death of the 7th Marquess in 1949 passed to Lady Londonderry and their youngest daughter, Lady Mairi Bury. In 1957 the gardens were given to the National Trust and Mount Stewart and its principal contents were acquired by the National Trust from Lady Mairi, in 1977. Since then the Trust has opened many sections within the house to the public and maintained the gardens. In 1986 the Trust also acquired ‘Tir na nOg’ the decorative walled and turreted burial ground on a hill to the north of the house, built by Lady Edith in the early 1930s and now the finally resting place of herself , the 7th Marquess and their daughter, Lady Margaret Stewart. References- Primary sources 1 PRONI D.654 Londonderry Papers. [The
references concerning Mount Stewart within this archive are numerous, however of particular interest are sections D.654/H1/1-7 (estate accounts 1781-1864), H/2/1-8 (estate ledgers 1781-1864) and M71 (estate maps). Section N2/24 also contains letters written by the 3rd Marquesses agent, John Andrews, concerning the demesne). 2 PRONI D.2846 The Theresa, Lady Londonderry Papers. [Document D.3084/C/1/1 written in March 1913 concerns ‘the garden at Mount Stewart’.] 3 PRONI D.3030 Castlereagh Papers 4 PRONI D.3099 Londonderry Papers 5 PRONI D.4108 Salter’s Company Estate Records. [This collection, though it concerns lands in Co. Londonderry, contains many letters (section D.4108/1) written by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Marquesses of Londonderry, some of which may concern the enlargement/rebuilding of Mount Stewart.] 6 Walter Harris 'A Topographical and Chorographical Survey of Co. Down' (Dublin, 1740), p.27 7 'Taylor’s & Skinner’s Maps of the Roads of Ireland' (Dublin, 1777) 8 Arthur Young 'A Tour of Ireland 1776-79' (London, 1780- reprinted Dublin 1925), p.47 9 W. Wilson 'The post-chaise companion or traveller’s directory through Ireland' (Dublin, 1786), pp.16, 488 10 PRONI D.591/237 Drennan Letters. [A description of Mount Stewart in 1787 written by Drennan’s sister, Mrs Martha McTier.] 11 George Hardinge MS. notes of a tour, Collection of Major Shirley, Lough Fea, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, 1792 12 A. Atkinson 'Ireland exhibited to England', Vol.I, (London, 1823), pp.222-229 13 'Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland Vol.7: Parishes of County Down II', ed. Angelique Day and Patrick McWilliams (QUB 1991), pp.69-70 [1834] 14 VAL/1B/33 First valuation, Greyabbey, c.1834-38 15 PRONI OS/6/3/11/1 OS maps, Down 11, 1834 16 Samuel Lewis 'A topographical dictionary of Ireland' (1837) 17 Mr. & Mrs. S.C. Hall 'Ireland its scenery and character' (London, 1843), pp.14-15 18 PRONI 'Parliamentary gazetteer of Ireland' Vol.2 (1844-45) 19 J.B. Doyle 'A tour in Ireland' (Dublin, 1854), p.91 20 Durham County Record Office D/Lo/C/543. [This collection contains letters dating between July 1854 and March 1855 from the 4th Marquess to his step-mother Frances Vane-Tempest, in which he describes the poor state he found Mount Stewart upon his inheritance of the property in 1854.] 21 PRONI VAL/2B/3/4 Second valuation, Greyabbey, c.1859 22 PRONI VAL/12B/23/16a-f Annual valuation revision books, 1866-1930 23 ‘Account of an excursion to Mount Stewart’ Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club Report, (1872), pp.8-25 24 ‘Account of an excursion to Mount Stewart’ Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club Proceedings, Series II, Vol.VII, pt.IV, (1917), pp.273-288. See also Vol.VIII, pt.IX, pp.411-18 (1926-7), Vol.IX, pt.I, pp.5-14 (1928-9), pt.IV, 139-150 (1931-2). 25 The Marchioness of Londonderry 'Mount Stewart' (c.1956) [This book is a guide to the gardens at Mount Stewart, written by their creator, Edith, Lady Londonderry on the occasion of a section of the gardens being handed over to the National Trust.] Secondary sources 1 G.C. Taylor "Mount Stewart County Down I & II" in 'Country Life', Vol.LXXVIII, No.2020, 5 & 12 October 1935 2 'Archaeological Survey of County Down' (Belfast, 1966), pp.374-376 3 PRONI D.3084/C The H. Montgomery Hyde Papers 4 Gervase Jackson-Stops "Mount Stewart Co. Down Parts 1 & 2" in 'Country Life', 6 & 13 March 1980 5 H. Montgomery Hyde 'The Londonderrys' (London, 1979) 6 Patrick Bowe ‘Some Irish landscape gardeners’ National Trust Studies (1981) 7 'Mount Stewart' (National Trust, 1986) 8 Patrick Bowe 'The gardens of Ireland', pp.163-73 9 Margaret Wiles "The animals went in two by two…" in 'The National Trust Magazine' Spring 1989, pp.27-30 10 Anne Casement 'Mount Stewart landscape study' (National Trust Northern Ireland Region, 1995)

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form E. Spatial Organisation H+. Alterations enhancing the building I. Quality and survival of Interior J. Setting K. Group value

Historic Interest

V. Authorship W. Northern Ireland/International Interest


Large, relatively sober and restrained, two storey hipped roof Classical style country house in greywacke snecked rubble with large sandstone Ionic port cochere and dressings, which took its present form in c.1835-40 when the 3rd Marquis of Londonderry commissioned William Vitruvius Morrison to replace much of what was a largely eighteenth century dwelling whilst retaining additions to the west side of 1805 by George Dance. The gardens to the immediate south of the mansion were laid out in the early 20th century and contain two ‘summer houses’ and many decorative moulded figures of animals and fantastic beasts, as well as many varieties of exotic flora.

General Comments

This record was previously numbered HB24/04/052 (ie without the 'A' suffix)

Date of Survey

Monday, November 24, 1997