The Downhill Demesne and Mussenden temple were created by Frederick Hervey, Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry in the early 1770s. He built a country house on the north coast of Northern Ireland and created a landscaped estate to surround it. He spent most of his money on the estate and grounds. Remains of the landscaping are noticeable today in the Black Glenís trees and shrubs and in the demesne.
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Hervey made many trips to Europe collecting treasures along the way with which to stock his house. A fire destroyed much of the mansionís contents in 1851. However, it was rebuilt and continued in use as a home until the late 1940s when the roof was removed. It is now a ruin.
He built a mausoleum in 1778 and dedicated it in memory of his brother, the 2nd earl. In 1839 a storm destroyed the top of the building. He also built the Lion Gate, located beside the remains of a double walled garden with dovecot and ice house still intact.
The Mussenden Temple sits right on the cliffís edge. It was a copy of the Temple of Vesta in Italy, and he planned to use it as a library. Hervey dedicated the Temple to his cousin Frideswide Mussenden.
Also on the property are sheltered gardens, a walled orchard with old Irish varieties of apples trees, and dramatic clifftop walks.
Mussenden Temple and Downhill Estate
Mussenden Rd, Castle Rock, Co. Derry
Tel. 028 2073 1582
Open: grounds: all year, dawn to dusk; parking (pay and display) at Lionís Gate; picnic tables at parking area
National Trust property
Text and photos © by Barbara Ballard