Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:
HB24/04/017 A

Extent of Listing:

Date of Construction:
1760 - 1779

Address :
Rosemount House Rosemount Greyabbey Newtownards Co Down BT22 2QA


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:
J5826 6785

Owner Category


Exterior Description And Setting

Unusual compact hipped roof and rendered Palladian mansion of the 1760s, with two storey side wings and diagonally set single storey side porches, which assumed their present appearance in the 1840s, and a rear single storey 'smoking room' extension of the 1890s; there are some Gothick openings to the rear elevation - in similar in style to the contemporary Castle Ward. The house stands within an estate to the south east of Greyabbey village, on or near the site of an earlier house of perhaps c.1700 which in turn replaced a defended house of 1634, destroyed by fire in 1695. The entire building is finished in plain render with chamfered quoins to most corners. The main roof has large rendered chimney stacks. The central main section of the house is three-storey, hipped roof, with a decorative balustraded parapet and cornice with modillions. To the north-west and south-east sides are two wings each with rounded ends, with hipped roofs and parapets as previous. From each of these wings are single storey flat-roofed porch off shoots which project diagonally. The ground floor facade of each two-storey wing to the south-west is flush with the main south-west facade, the upper floor is set back. The house is entered from either of the ‘diagonal’ side porches; the position of the original entrance is uncertain. The south-west elevation of the main three-storey section has six sash windows, with Georgian panes, to each floor with simple (partly fluted) pilaster surrounds, entablature and cornice to those on the ground and first floors, with plainer surrounds to the small windows on the second floor. The windows reduce in height at each floor. Cill course to first floor. There are single similar windows to each floor of the south-west façades of the two-storey side wings. The porch off shoots have similar windows to their south-west elevations, with timber panelled double doors (with similar surround as ground floor windows on south-west façade of main house) to the south façade of the south porch and the west façade of the north-west porch. To the corners of the porches are Doric/Tuscan engaged columns which support an entablature with modillioned cornice. The ground level to the immediate north of the porch to the north-west slopes away to reveal a section of the basement. Viewed from the north the porch acts as a visual bridge over this slope. Also the north face of the porch is completely plain and appears to have been rebuilt, possibly quite recently. The rounded end of the side wing to the south-east has a tripartite sash window to the first floor, with simple surround, with evidence of a now blocked Venetian window to the ground floor. The north-west end of the other side wing also displays evidence of a former Venetian window to the ground floor with further evidence of a now blocked window opening to the first floor. The north-east (rear) elevation of the main three-storey section has a central, broad, full height canted bay with hipped roof and decorative balustraded parapet as rest of façade. To the ground floor faces of the bay are Gothick (ogee) window openings with narrow decorative surrounds and sash frames. To the first and second floors of the bay, as well as the rest of the façade, are windows as south-west elevation. Cill course to first floor. The north-east facade of the north-west side wing has a single window to each floor as the front facade, however, the ground floor of this facade is not flush with the facade of the main central block (unlike the ‘front’). Attached to the ground floor of the north-east facade of the south-east side wing is a relatively plain single storey extension of the 1890s with tall plain parapet, hipped roof and three sided bay on its north-east elevation. Set back and above this extension is the first floor of the north-east façade of the south-east side wing. Built into this façade, and rising out from the decorative balustrade is a tall chimney stack upon which is a decorative moulded plaque with the date ‘1895’. SETTING: The house stands in its own demesne to the south-east of Greyabbey village, a demesne which comprises parkland with mature trees and woodlands with some ornamental planting to the east and west of the north front of the house and an extensive lawn to the south entrance front with a sweeping carriage drive. Close by to the north stands a group of outbuildings (HB24/04/017B), with a walled garden to the north-west of them (HB24/04/017E). In the parkland to the north and east stands a well house (HB24/04/017F). Beyond the garden to the north and east is situated a ha-ha comprising a sunken drive with stone revetments (HB24/04/017C) and a footbridge (HB24/04/017D). To the east of the house standing in the garden is a stone sundial pedestal, of c 1830, of no special interest, now missing its dial. To the south-west of the house, near the boundary of the estate, stands a mound and enclosure (SMR: Down 11:11) labelled a ‘rath’ by the Ordnance Survey, surrounded by trees, with a 19th century stone and brick lime kiln, of no special interest, built into the eastern side of it. The estate has two sets of entrance gateways, each with an associated gate lodge, the Abbey Gate Lodge (HB24/04/018) to the north of the main house, and the Front Gate Lodge (HB24/04/016) to the west of the main house. South of the main driveway, to the south-west of the main house, is Rosemount Cottage, formerly a gate lodge in the early 19th century, rebuilt as a larger single-storey house in 2003, and of no special interest.


Sands, James

Historical Information

The present Rosemount, or Grey Abbey House, was built in the 1760s by William Montgomery, whose father, also named William, had acquired the estate from a kinsman in 1718, who was himself a descendant of Viscount Montgomery. It was constructed on the site of an earlier dwelling (built possibly c.1700), which itself had replaced a seventeenth century manor house, which probably stood where the stable block now stands, accidentally burned down in 1695. The architect of the house remains a mystery, though James Boswell who visited Rosemount in the summer of 1769 described it as ‘an excellent house of Mr. Montgomery’s own planning’, suggesting perhaps that its owner may have had a not insubstantial input in the design. Evidence suggests that some alterations to Rosemount were carried out in the 1840s, which seems to have included the building of the diagonally placed porches and the addition of balustraded parapets. The two side wings may have been lowered in height at this stage also, as an anonymous oil painting showing the house in c.1780 indicates that they may have been slightly taller. The rounded ends to the wings may have been constructed in the 1840s also. Whatever the extent of the alterations to the building they were probably executed to designs by James Sands, who was paid £2,580 in December 1846 for ‘sundry works proposed to be done at Greyabbey House’. The somewhat crude single storey extension at the eastern corner of the house was added in 1895 and was originally built primarily as a smoking room. References- Primary sources 1. W. Harris, The Antient and Present State of the County of Down (Dublin, 1774), pp 48-49. 2. R. Luckombe, A Tour Through Ireland in 1779 (Dublin, 1780), p 334. 3. The Journals of James Boswell 1762-1795, ed. John Wain (London, 1991). 4. Anonymous oil paint painting of Grey Abbey and its demesne c.1780, reproduced in ‘Grey Abbey Co. Down’ by Jeremy Musson, Country Life 30 October 1997. 5. OS Map 1834, Co Down 11. 6. PRONI VAL/ID/1B/33 1st valuation, Greyabbey, c 1834-38. 7. ‘Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland, Vol 7: Parishes of County Down II’ ed Angelique Day and Patrick McWilliams (QUB, 1991), pp 67-72. 8. PRONI VAL/1D/3/17 Valuation plan, Greyabbey, c 1838. 9. Drawing by James Sands for the alteration of the entrance front of Grey Abbey House, 1846, reproduced in ‘Grey Abbey Co. Down’ by Jeremy Musson, ‘Country Life’, 30 October 1997. [NB the main photograph of the ‘rear’ of the house in this article has been printed in reverse.] 10. PRONI VAL/2B/3/4 Second valuation, Greyabbey, c 1859. 11. PRONI VAL/2D/3/10 Second valuation, Greyabbey, 1859. 12. PRONI OS/6/3/11/2 Ordnance Survey Maps, 1st Revision, c 1860, Co Down 11. 13. PRONI VAL/12B/23/16a-f Annual valuation revision books, Greyabbey, 1866-1930. 14. PRONI VAL/12E/99/1 Valuation plan, Greyabbey, 1906-35. Secondary Sources 1. A. Knox, A History of the County of Down (Dublin, 1875), pp 482-484. 2. R.M. Young, Belfast and the Province of Ulster in the 20th Century (Brighton, 1909), p 206. 3. ‘Archaeological survey of County Down’ (1966), pp.405-408 (with plates). 4. M. Bence-Jones, Burke’s Guide to Country Houses. Volume 1: Ireland (London, 1978), pp 146 and 147. 5. UAHS, Northern Gardens: Gardens and Parks of Outstanding Historic Interest in Northern Ireland (Belfast, ND [1982]), p 5. 6. B. Jupp, Heritage Gardens Inventory 1992 (Belfast, 1992). 7. J. Howley, The Follies and Garden Buildings of Ireland (London, 1993), pp 73 and 205. 8. J.A.K. Dean, The Gate Lodges of Ulster: A Gazetteer (Belfast, 1994), p 78. 9. Belfast Telegraph, 15 February 1995. 10. M. Bence-Jones, Life in an Irish Country House (London, 1996), pp 122-129. 11. Jeremy Musson ‘Grey Abbey Co Down’ in Country Life, 30 October 1997, pp 46-51. 12. C.E.B. Brett, Buildings of North County Down (Belfast, 2002), pp 80-81. 13. SMR: Down 11.10; 11.11; and 12.8.

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

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

Historic Interest

W. Northern Ireland/International Interest V. Authorship


Unusual compact hipped roof and rendered Palladian mansion of the 1760s, with two storey side wings and 'diagonal' single storey side porches which assumed their present appearance in the 1840s, and a rear single storey 'smoking room' extension of the 1890s; there are some Gothick openings to the rear elevation- in similar fashion to the contemporary Castle Ward. The house stands within an estate to the south east of Greyabbey village, on or near the site of an earlier house of perhaps c.1700 which in turn replaced a defended house of 1634, destroyed by fire in 1695.

General Comments

Date of Survey

Thursday, November 27, 1997