J4074 : Stormont Castle

taken 16 years ago, near to Dundonald, Co Down, Northern Ireland

Stormont Castle
Stormont Castle
In the early years of the nineteenth century the Reverend John Cleland had, as a result of an advantageous marriage and reputedly ill-gotten gains, claimed this 215 acre demesne located in Ballymiscaw townland, 2km east-northeast of Dundonald village. In the early part of the century the estate was described as being a "house and farm" but by 1830 a new house had been built named "Storm Mount". This was described as being a "...large plain house with very little planting about it". The Gothic conservatory in the formal gardens - J4074 : Stormont Castle - Gothic conservatory - is thought to date from around this time, constructed in the late 1830s. Samuel Cleland of "Storm Mount" died in an accident at the house c1842 and is buried in the churchyard of St Elizabeth's, Dundonald J4173 : The Cleland Mausoleum, Dundonald.

In 1858 the Cleland family began to radically alter the house. The exterior was re-designed to the fashionable Scottish Baronial style by the local architect Thomas Turner, possibly based on earlier plans by one of the leading country-house architects of the day, William Burn. Cladding of Scrabo stone was added to the plain house, with crenellations and turrets topped by fearsome gryphons. This was complemented by a terraced garden, including a complex lay-out of flower beds. A fine, and surviving, lean-to glasshouse was backed by bothies, offices and stove house. The castle's apartments included a ballroom 64 feet by 24 feet, a drawing room 36 feet by 18 feet, and other fine reception rooms, with 14 family bedrooms, besides dressing rooms and bathrooms, servants' quarters and offices. At this stage the house had assumed the name of "Stormont Castle".

By 1893 the Cleland family had deserted the castle to live abroad and it was rented out to different parties until, after the partition of Ireland in 1921, it was acquired with 235 acres of land as a site for the government buildings of the new Northern Ireland state. Shortly after this the more famous Parliament Buildings were constructed - see J4075 : Parliament Buildings, Stormont - some 0.5 miles to the north-west of the castle.

The house was saved from demolition by pressure of local opinion and was utilised from 1922 until 1940 as the official residence of the first Prime Minister, Sir James Craig, and subsequently as offices for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office. During the period of direct rule from Westminster it accommodated the office of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It also served as the location of the Cabinet Room of the Government of Northern Ireland from 1921 to 1972. Under direct rule from Westminster from 1972 until devolution the castle served as the Belfast headquarters of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Office Ministers and supporting officials. During the "troubles" it was also used by MI5 officers.

Under devolution the castle is now used by the ministers from the Northern Ireland Executive, party officials and various civil servants. The Executive Committee meet south-western corner of the ground floor (facing here) and the First Minister's office is in an adjoining suite; the Deputy First Minister's office is directly above. The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service has an office in the north-western corner.

Normally closed to the general public, it was accessible here during a European Heritage Open Day. Sadly, interior shots were strictly forbidden.
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Rossographer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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J4074, 44 images   (more nearby search)
Date Taken
Sunday, 14 September, 2008   (more nearby)
Monday, 15 September, 2008
Castle > Castle   (more nearby)
Subject Location
Irish: geotagged! J 402 748 [100m precision]
WGS84: 54:36.1174N 5:49.8287W
Camera Location
Irish: geotagged! J 402 747
View Direction
Northeast (about 45 degrees)
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Image classification(about): Geograph
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