Mount Stewart, the ancestral home of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family in County Down, has now reopened after a three-year, £8 million restoration project.
The project was a hugely complicated logistical exercise. First the historic contents of the rooms had to be carefully removed (‘decanted’ in conservation-speak) and stored.
Then the structure of the building was repaired. Much of the work was undertaken by the building firm H & J Martin, which was founded in 1840 and is associated with a number of landmark buildings in Northern Ireland, including Belfast’s City Hall.
The heating system was upgraded to make it more efficient and suitable for a historic building and collection.
The joinery also needed attention. As much as possible of the original woodwork was left in place, and new sections were carefully joined in (similar to the method of conservation shown in a previous post).
Following repairs to the plasterwork the rooms were redecorated, often restoring them to their appearance during the time of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry (1878-1959), who put a distinct stamp on the house and garden (personally I love her colour sense, as you can also see here). Finally the original contents were moved back in.
There are also many new things to see at Mount Stewart. A large number of historically associated objects has recently been allocated to the house through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. A further group of important works of art and other items has been lent by the estate of Alistair Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the 9th Marquess of Londonderry (1937-2012). All of these objects reflect the historical significance of the family and their taste and interests.
There are now 11 paintings by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) on display at Mount Stewart, including portraits of Robert Stewart, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry (1769-1822, usually known by his courtesy title Lord Castlereagh), who played an important role in stabilising Europe following the Napoleonic wars.
A brief interview with Lady Rose Lauritzen, the granddaughter of Edith, Lady Londonderry, can be seen here.
The project was funded by the National Trust with help from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Royal Oak Foundation, the BH Breslauer Foundation, the Lauritzen Foundation, the Friends of the National Libraries, the Northern Ireland Museums Council and a number of individual supporters.