NORTH ANTRIM

[Extracts from the North Antrim list by W D Girvan, published by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society in 1972.]

The List also covers Ballymoney, Bushmills, Portballintrae and Portrush.


Dunluce Castle:

Built on an isolated rock, which is pierced below by a long cave, the castle provides one of the most spectacular and romantic sights of the north coast. It may originally have been founded by the Norman overlord of Ulster, Richard de Burgh, about 1300. Between the MacQuillans and the MacDonnells there were constant disputes about the ownership of Dunluce resulting in battles and sieges. The O'Neills also took part. Finally under Sorley Boy MacDonnell, the MacDonnell clans defeated both. Sir John Perrot stormed Dunluce in 1584 and held it for a year, but Sorley Boy regained it and, by Royal grant, was given overlordship of most of the Route. Later, his son, Sir James MacDonnell, may have renovated the castle. From this time it remained in MacDonnell hands.

The original castle would probably have been rectangular, with round flanking towers at the corners, two of which survive at the south-east and north-east. The south western tower would have contained the entrance and some have thought that there were perhaps two towers here guarding the gate. With the continual erosion of the cliff edge, the original curtain walls to the west and east collapsed, the latter in 1639; traces of them still remain. The south curtain wall stands though much reinforced and thickened later. To the north of this wall was an open loggia, five bays long, of sandstone columns, the bases of which survive; they are unfluted and probably date from the mid-16th century; this feature is most unusual but can be paralleled in Scottish castles. The gatehouse which commands the drawbridge perhaps dates from a little later, c.1600, and has Scottish features, notably two sturdy, finely corbelled bartizans. Within the first and older yard of the castle, the most striking feature is the large two-storey residence, squashed between the loggia and buttery, dating from the same period as the gatehouse. The style is much more sophisticated than the rest of the castle and derives from that of the English manor house of the period. Three west-facing canted bay windows, now without their mullions, provided the building with what must have seemed to the then inhabitants almost an excess of light. These and the corners have dressed quoins. There is a string course and eaves cornice; one window in the northern gable retains its mullioning. A large fireplace heated the lower storey. The open loggia lost its function with the erection of this block and, the floor being raised, was turned into a room with a fireplace in the easternmost bay. To the north of the hall lay a kitchen; this appears to be of an earlier date and contains stone ovens. The buildings of the lower yard to the north are of less interest architecturally and seem to be of a date between the original castle and the 17th century additions; they probably accommodated servants, and the western wing contained a bakery. The extensive mainland buildings date from the first half of the 17th century and may have been erected because the widowed Duchess of Buckingham, whom the second Earl of Antrim married, disliked, quite understandably, the bleakness of the old fortress. Too little remains to distinguish any architectural features. Throughout the castle much of the original cobbling is still in situ. Near the north-east tower runs a 40 ft. souterrain which indicates that the site must have been inhabited long before any of the present buildings were erected. After the 1641 rebellion it was deserted by the Antrim family and gradually fell into decay until 1928, when it was acquired by the Ministry of Finance and restored.

Refs: PSAMNI; HMS0 Guide; O'Laverty; Notes on the ruins of Dunluce Castle, W.H. Lynn, 1905.

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Seaport Lodge, Portballintrae:

 A charming house at the western tip of the bay. It dates from about 1770 and is similar in shape to the original Benvarden House - three bays long with a large bow front. Its early date is confirmed by an illustration on a map of the Leslie estate at Portballintrae dated 1780 (now at Leslie Hill), in which all the present features of the house are clearly to be seen. The entrance door is in the bow between two large round headed windows. The flanking windows are tripartite, the semi-circular heads springing from semi-engaged decorative columns. The end walls contain large single storey bows with similar windows. All the ground floor windows, on the evidence of an early painting at Leslie Hill, had Gothic glazing bars, which have since been replaced by much less attractive plate glass. The upper floor windows are square with moulded surrounds. Beneath the cornice runs a band of fluting. The hipped roof is concealed by a deep balustrade which also carries the chimneys. The pink sandstone has for many years been painted white.

Interior: The oval hall has a plasterwork ceiling in classical vein, Mr. Boyle in the 0.S.M. thought that the house was 'commodious and tasteful in its style of architecture and, although exposed in position, admirably calculated for that of a bathing lodge.'

Refs: Lewis; O.S.M.; Young.


[Note: Planning permission has recently been granted for conversion to apartments and two large extensions, which will have an adverse effect on the house and its important setting.]

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Town Hall, Kerr Street, Portrush:


1872. Architects Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon. An immensely vigorous high-Victorian building in red brick with yellow and black brick trim. Its bulging bowed end successfully negotiates the awkward corner at the junction of Mark Street and Kerr Street. Amid the hotch-potch of styles are crow-stepped gables, a conical capped round tower and an utterly repulsive and unsympathetic recent addition, called 'Information Office'.

In front is the War Memorial, 1922, by F. Ransom. A bronze Victory on a granite plinth, on which is a plaque of a battleship.

Ref: Coleraine Chronicle, 1 June 1872.


[Note: Coleraine Borough Council has been refused (June 2000) permission to demolish this landmark building. The UAHS had joined local residents in campaigning to save it at Planning Appeal].

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