Visiting Lord and Lady Londonderry…. well… their house.

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(Mount Stewart house and a little of the Italian garden)

Mount Stewart was the home of Lord and Lady Londonderry. It is beside Strangford Lough on the peninsula side and like the fishing village it is also owned by the National Trust. We walked around the gardens – very beautiful – and then went into the house for a tour.

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(The lake – not the lough)

As we waiting until the appointed time we had an opportunity to speak with the steward of the house, a very young woman who explained the power of light. I had my camera and she very gently told me I could not use the flash and explained that of all the difficulties of stewarding an old house light damage was probably the most challenging. Fading caused by the sun (or continuous flash photography) can not be un-faded. For this reason, the blinds are mostly closed around the house and artificial light guides our way.

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(The former main entrance, now the music room – dark to protect from the light)

The official tour began at noon and we heard lots of interesting information (most of which I’ve forgotten, I’ll be taking notes next time…) Here’s what I do remember…. Women were very important in the fortunes of Mount Stewart. A family called the Stewarts (possibly describing an ancestral occupation of house stewards) moved from Scotland to lands on Lough Swilly near Londonderry (Derry). Later one of the sons moved to this location on Strangford Lough and built the first house here – called Mount Pleasant. He had two sons Alexander and Robert. Alexander was a bit of a ladies man and also a soldier. Anyway, he found a rich wife and then had the money to build on and make his home even more impressive.

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(Steps up to the family burial grounds – called Tir na nOg. In Irish myth residents of Tir na nOg, never age)

Alexander’s brother Robert was a politician and was a good friend of the Duke of Wellington but although he seemed to have had great success in his political career (he was once rewarded with a painting from the pope….) he was not a happy man. Years later another of the Stewarts married a rich wife and the fortunes of the family were secured again. For a time the house was left empty as the sons and grandsons married and moved elsewhere (including one of my favourite coffee places, Powerscourt House, in Co.Wicklow.)

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(Tourist map of Mount Stewart)

Eventually, sometime in the 1900’s another descendant moved to Mount Stewart to take up a job as a politician in Northern Ireland. His wife re-decorated the house and created the beautiful gardens. Her daughter, Mairi, lived in the house until her death in 2009. The house is still occupied by a descendant of Mairi’s.

Mount Stewart, testament to the power of women, Mairead.

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