The scandal behind Mussenden Temple at Downhill

looking up at Mussenden Temple

The domed Mussenden Temple was designed as a library and built for the niece of the 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry - Frideswide Bruce, of whom the Bishop appears to have been extremely fond.

Some say the Earl Bishop and Frideswide were far too close - when the Bishop disagreed with his long-suffering wife, he often went to stay with his 'cher cousin'.

No smoke without fire?

Without actually naming them, the Freeman’s Journal suggested that the relationship between the Earl Bishop and his niece was not altogether proper and - although this was later denied in print - the mud stuck.
Frideswide married a wealthy and elderly London banker named Daniel Mussenden and, as a gift to her, the Earl Bishop built the splendid library called the Mussenden Temple. This was to house part of his celebrated Library and was supposed to be a place to which Frideswide, when she visited, could retire.

Frideswide's early demise

The temple was finished in 1783 but it's said that the mortification of the scandal affected Frideswide health, which had always been delicate. Although there is no proof, it may have contributed to her early death. The Temple, which was to have been her refuge, became her memorial when she died in 1785.