Castle Ward – The Schizophrenic House

On the Wednesday of our break in Northern Ireland we booked out of Ardtara House and drove for a couple of hours over to Strangford Lough to visit Castle Ward an 18th-century] National Trust property located near the village of Strangford, in County Down. It’s set in very extensive grounds at the south end of the Lough. Besides the main house there were a number of other buildings of interest which have become well known as they’ve been used as locations for the popular TV series Game of Thrones. But in this post I’m going to concentrate on the main house itself.

This is the front of the house, built in typical neo-Classical style.

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But round the other side, facing the Lough ……

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Rather different to say the least. It’s Gothic with ogee and centre-pointed windows and a battlemented parapet with pinnacles. The division is reflected inside the house too. It’s split right down the middle. the rooms at the front are neo-Classical and at the back are Gothic.

The house was built between 1761 and  1767 for Bernard Ward, later first Viscount Bangor and his wife Lady Anne Bligh, daughter of the first Earl of Darnley. The Ward family first settled in the area around 1570 when they built the original Castle Ward – a tower house close to the shore of the Lough.

Legend has it that the husband and wife couldn’t agree on the style so they split the difference, literally. However, this is probably not true. It’s more likely that they both agreed to construct the house in this way featuring both architectural styles.

The view fromt he back of the house over to the Lough is quite outstanding especially on a bright, sunny day.

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Viewing the inside of the house is by guided tour and we had yet another knowledgeable and entertaining guide with plenty of anecdotes and stories to tell us.

The first room we visited was the neo-Classical entrance hall which was later converted into a music room. The decorative plasterwork featuring musical instruments, domestic items and gardening tools was added at this time, in 1828 by local craftsmen.DSC09893

However it’s not as authentic as it first appears as the workers cut corners by coating actual objects, like this violin, with plaster and attaching them to the wall.

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This is the grand fireplace in the hall.

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The library and the dining room, to either side of the hall / music room, are also decorated in the neo-Classical style.

Moving across to the other side of the house we entered the realm of the Gothic

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The saloon in the centre of the Gothic side was something else with its outrageous ceiling

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It’s really hard to know what to make of that ceiling. According to our guide John Betjeman, who used to visit the house, commented that being in the room felt like he was standing underneath the udders of a giant cow! I could see what he meant.

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Moving through to a less outrageous and more subtly decorated room

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Then into the study. The Gothic decoration here is restricted to the windows and the ceiling.

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After touring the ground floor we went upstairs where we were able to to look in some of the bedrooms. This bed used to belong to Sir John Parnell, the grandfather of the “uncrowned King of Ireland”, Charles Stewart Parnell.

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The room also contained a rather fine Gothic wardrobe

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The end of the tour took us down into the basement – the realm of the servants.

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The kitchen and scullery were here, as well as storerooms, including the wine cellar

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