Large two storey hipped roof Classical style country house in greywacke snecked rubble with large sandstone port cochere and dressings. Large gravel forecourt to the front (northeast) and elaborate ornamental garden to the west. Earliest parts dates to mid 1700s but present form largely c.1835-40 by William Vitruvius Morrison.
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- COUNTRY HOUSE (Mid 18th C to Early 21st century - 1750 AD to 2050 AD)
Large and relatively restrained two storey hipped roof Classical style country house in greywacke snecked rubble with large sandstone port cochere and dressings and has a large gravel forecourt to the front (north east) and an elaborate ornamental garden to the west. The origins of the house can be traced to the mid 1700s (originally named Mount Pleasant, re-named Mount Stewart 1770s), but it 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 18th century dwelling whilst retaining (and blending in) additions made to the west side in 1805 by George Dance, which had demolished and replaced much of the west wing of the original house. The house as depicted on the 1834 OS map shows a roughly ‘L’ shaped building with the Dance wing to the west and the irregular mass of the original house to the east.
In or around 1835 Morrison was contracted 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, 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 façade 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.
During the First World War Mount Stewart was used as a convalescent home, evidence of which survives within the house attic rooms. This use was revived again during the Second World War when the property was billeted and also used for convalescence.
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 west 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 the southeast 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 north side of the southeast section there is a small modern single storey extension constructed in concrete brick with a large concrete brick boiler chimney above. Much of the south façade and portions of the north are covered in greenery. 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.
Generally the windows of Mount Stewart are sash with Georgian panes. The ‘bays’ to the front and west side have tripartite windows, with a elliptical arched doorway on the ground floor of the west ‘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.
The Grade ‘A’ lsiting of the house extends to its surrounding walling and garden features. There is a decorative balustrade (somewhat similar to that on the parapet), with urns, around the forecourt to the north of the house. Elaborate gardens are situated to the immediate northwest and southwest of the house (begun by Edith, Lady Londonderry in 1921). The Italian garden to the south of the house is roughly square in plan and is approached from the terrace at its north 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 north and a tall row of evenly spaced columns to the south 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 south wall 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 south end. The central portion of this garden is sunken. In the middle of the east wall is a decorative set of stone steps which leads from a terrace (running north-south) 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 south end of the terrace is a small stone garden is a small portico with a flat roof supported by a wall to the south and four Tuscan-like columns to the north. 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 is a stylised moulding of an ark. As one might expect, much of the garden wall are obscured by greenery.
To the west 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 west 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 north side of the Sunk garden.
G.C. Taylor 1935, ‘Mount Stewart County Down I & II’, Country Life, Vol. LXXVIII, No.2020, 5 & 12 October 1935
Gervase Jackson-Stops 1980, ‘Mount Stewart Co. Down, Parts 1 & 2’, Country Life, 6 & 13, March 1980
P. Bowe 1981, ‘Some Irish landscape gardeners’ National Trust Studies
A. Casement 1995 'Mount Stewart Landscape Study' (Unpublished 3 volumes NTNI)
Listed Building: Mount Stewart & garden walls Mount Stewart Newtownards Co. Down BT22 2RU (HB24/04/052A)
Registered Park or Garden: MOUNT STEWART (D-037)
Other Statuses and References