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Home / World / Couple spends lock to make Irish mansion

Couple spends lock to make Irish mansion

(CNN)— With the rise of novices, a three-story Georgian mansion covering 820 acres is not bad.

When Neil Watt and his partner Kris Reid moved into the top floor of a mansion in the Castle District of Northern Ireland in March 2020, this was their first home.

Watt is working as a collection and house manager in the new residence of a property owned by the British heritage agency National Trust, and they are preparing to welcome daily visitors with a large number of colleagues and volunteers.

In addition to the 18th-century houses and landscaped gardens, people also saw Victorian sawmills and corn mills, coastlines where seals sometimes basked in the sun, and 1

6th-century tower houses, known as HBO’s “Game of Thrones” Winterfell.

Then, of course there was a pandemic. The powerful door of the mansion must be closed and the public turned around.

This corner of County Down, where the Ward family lived from the 1570s to the 1950s, actually became a private residence again.

As the new lord of the manor, Watt and Reid decided to rebuild it.

Manor Lord

Castle Ward is a two-sided country house.

Approaching from the beautifully landscaped garden, this is an 18th century mansion in a classical Palladian style. But around the corner, you can see its sharp windows and battlements looking straight at Strangford Lough, which is Georgian Gothic style.

This bold fusion of styles separates the 40-room building from the middle, inside and outside.

Neil Watt, the collection and house manager of Ward Castle, said: “Every time this house is built, it is one of the most magnificent houses in Ireland.” “Of course, in the age of style and architecture, it is the most avant-garde. of.”

Like many of us, when we found ourselves trapped in the house last spring, the couple first turned themselves towards odd jobs around the house.

In their case, this means tasks to perform include scrubbing hundreds of pots and pans, dismantling Victorian chandeliers and cleaning them piece by piece, and cleaning and sorting about 2,000 books.

With a slight CGI, Ward Castle is used as the seat of Winterfell

With a little CGI, Ward Castle is used as the location of Winterfell in “Game of Thrones.”


“We want this house to shine”

Watt said: “We have been saying to ourselves that as long as we are allowed to open again, we want this house to shine whenever we want.”

Both are experienced conservationists-Reid is currently studying for a PhD, so it is no stranger to them to resume work.

However, what is unusual is how much time they usually have dedicated to renovations, and usually they are busy interacting with visitors.

A new dehumidification system was installed, from the fireplace to the door knocker, the carpets and carpets were broken, the floors were waxed, and silver and brass were polished.

In the summer, when colleagues and volunteers were allowed to return, they rolled up their sleeves and got into trouble. Watt said: “As a charity, there is no one, we are nothing.”

Watt said: “We have done a lot of work, which is actually labor-intensive, but it is very cautious and gives us some work.”

Royal Contact

In addition to conservation work, Watt also used the lock-up period to further study the history of the heritage and reconsidered how to present it to the public.

Watt said: “Fresh blood is so important, because sometimes we tell stories, because this is what we told before.”

Ward Castle was built in the early 1760s by Bernard Ward of 1st Viscount Bangor and his wife Lady Anne (close descendants of the Stuart royal family).

The two have traveled extensively around the world, and together they have designed their ambitious modern homes.

Watt’s doctorate is in the hands of a woman in an Irish country house, and the story of Lady Ann is a story he particularly likes to revisit.

He said: “She showed a kind of spiritual independence, which didn’t seem to be at the time.” She was very rich and aristocratic. “She did what she liked.”

He added that she was very sexually free. Before marrying Bernard, she had a long-term relationship with a woman, Letitia Bushe.

The boudoir of Ward Castle

The boudoir is located on the Gothic side of the house.

Offered by Neil Watt

“Family Crazy”

Mrs. Ann, her brother Lord Darnley and her son Nicholas have all been accused by their peers who have suffered “family madness.” It is not clear whether this is due to the mental health that we may recognize today, or simply because his behavior violated the social norms of the time.

One of the most interesting theories about Darnley is that Darnley believes he is a teapot and was the seat of the legendary Annabel nightclub until 2018, and he is afraid of sex meetings. To prevent his spout from falling off at night.

Bernard and Annie’s eldest son Nicholas (Nicholas) is a member of the British Parliament, but eventually declared crazy. Watt said that after the intervention, the estate was passed on to his nephew, who was the “very enterprising brother of Viscount Bangor II, who thought the rigor in his hands would be better.”

There are also rumors that his brothers relaxed the guard at Ward Castle to speed up their brother’s ending, but Nicholas has lived to a mature age. This idle gossip is unfounded.

“Open and honest”

Watt said: “History is revisionism; history is a discourse.” Watt said that he used lock time to create a new house narrative to accompany the trip.

This revisionism is part of a broader trend for the National Trust, which released a report last fall stating that the relationship between its property and colonialism and historical slavery has caused controversy.

John Orna-Ornstein, the foundation’s director of cultural and engagement affairs, told CNN in September: “Our role is to speak as openly and honestly as possible about the places and collections we care about. Complete history.”

Today, the island of Ireland is divided into an independent Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom. However, before the Irish War of Independence (1919-21), the island was under British rule.

big house’

Chandelier in the reception hall of the castle ward

This chandelier greets visitors in the reception hall of Ward Castle.

Offered by Neil Watt

The “big house” is a powerful symbol of the establishment of British institutions in Ireland, and the grand home of these elite families was sometimes targeted during the civil unrest (known as “trouble”) in the 20th century.

Watt said that although there are still few “big houses” in relative terms, especially in the Republic, “there are not as many houses burned down in the troubles of the 1920s as people thought.”

In the 20th century, when the days of large families with many servants disappeared, the cost of maintenance meant that “many people were simply demolished.”

Watt said that although those who live in private homes often fall into despair, “Ward Castle is really lucky because it is a gift to the country.”

‘We really turned the corner’

He explained: “The big houses are just part of a larger structure.” “All these big houses are connected to a manor, just like their sister houses in England, Wales and Scotland. In those places, there is a society and there is Lots of connections.”

Watt regularly receives letters from people whose ancestors worked in Ward Castle.

Although the remains of “big houses” are sometimes a politically sensitive topic in Northern Ireland, Watt said: “I think we have really turned the corner. I think people are starting to see these places as their shared spaces. It used to be. “

Although Ward Castle can be opened partly in 2020, it is now closed again indefinitely due to the latest blockades in the UK and Ireland.

Watt said that although it was new at the beginning, he walked around in the empty room, “By the second weekend, you really want to open the door and let people in. I think this really shows people’s interest in historical monuments. importance.”

Both are natives of Northern Ireland-Watt is from Tyrone and Reid is from the nearby town of Ballynahinch-but due to restrictions, they have hardly seen their family members this year​​.

But Watt said they looked out from the top of the Gothic facade of the house, feeling comfortable in the flooded area, boats sailing on the lake, and people strolling and riding horses along the lake shore.

Watt said, gazing at Portaferry at night, through the Baltic town, “You will never feel alone.” “Every night, the lights flicker.”

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