Castle Ward's Split Personality

Castle Ward in County Down

The current Castle Ward is a particularly unusual building, famed for having been built with two completely opposing decorative styles.

One half is built in the classical Palladian style, with the other half which faces out across Strangford lough is built in the more elaborate Gothic style.

A Marriage of Compromise

The reasoning behind this unusual decorative scheme is that the original builder of the house, Bernard Ward, 1st Viscount Bangor, did not agree with his wife Ann on the décor. The story goes that they both preferred different styles, Bernard the classical and Ann the more fashionable Gothic, and so their compromise was to split the house down the middle. Their marriage seems to have been troubled with disagreements, and not long after the house was built in the early 1760s, they separated, with Ann leaving Castle Ward for good.

The Gothic side of the mansion house looks out over Strangford on a winter day
The Gothic side of the mansion house at Castle Ward
The Gothic side of the mansion house looks out over Strangford on a winter day

The differing styles don’t stop at the stonework however, they’re also evident in the interior decoration. One side of the house is marked by simple, classical decoration, but a step through to the other side of the house reveals arabesque arches, ornate panelling and ceilings which need to be seen to be believed. On a visit to Castle Ward, writer and poet John Betjeman referred to the ceiling in the Boudoir as looking particularly like cows udders, and the comment has stuck.

The unusual ceiling of the Boudoir in the Gothic side of the house
The Boudoir at Castle Ward house
The unusual ceiling of the Boudoir in the Gothic side of the house

The history of the house and its unusual architecture is revealed on guided house tours, running daily from 12noon and provided free as part of your entrance to Castle Ward. The last tour enters at 4pm and on Sundays the house is accessed by free flow only from 1pm onwards.