One of several family houses, Mount Stewart remained Edith’s favourite. In meticulously redesigning the house and boldly planting the now world famous gardens, she breathed new life into the demesne and transformed it into a colourful and scent-filled sanctuary for her family and a retreat where many illustrious friends came to relax and escape public life.
The painting Circe and the Sirens by Edmond Brock gives a first glimpse of Edith and her three youngest daughters, along with her husband Charles and the artist as herms, immortalised in oil paint set in the Italian garden.
A browse through Mount Stewart’s guest books shows a roll-call of famous guests. Politicians, poets and artists like Edmond Brock (whose work can be seen throughout the house) were always welcome to come and enjoy the invigorating outdoor activities around the demesne.
The Central Hall and east end of the house were built in the 1840s, although the exact origin of their designs is unclear. A stained glass dome was removed in the 1950s; a second dome over the Saloon had been removed in the 1920s to make way for more bedrooms and a dressing room above.
To the east end of the hall is Mount Stewart’s new silver display. It holds an exquisite selection of the Londonderry family silver dating from 1694 to mid-20th century, with a Butler’s book on hand to explore further the heritage of the collection.
The couple frequently hosted dinner parties and entertained leading politicians including Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain. The dining room table can seat at least 20 people and is set for dinner with a formal service. The place cards reveal some of the honoured guests that stayed at Mount Stewart.
One of the most significant family collections sits proudly around the walls. The 22 Empire chairs from the Congress of Vienna include the one reputedly used by Viscount Castlereagh as British Foreign Secretary. Edith had them skilfully embroidered in the 1930s with the coats of arms of those present at the Congress.
Black and White Stone Hall
In the Black and White Hall are pieces of armour captured from the Imperial Guard by the 3rd Marquess, General Charles Stewart, the distinguished and flamboyant ‘Soldier Marquess’ who fought under Wellington.
Across the Hall is a white marble ideal head of Helen of Troy by Antonio Canova. One of the leading sculptors of the age, he presented this bust to Lord Castlereagh after the Napoleonic wars.
Visit the Pot Pourri room where Edith dried the flowers from the garden. She made up her own recipe of pot pourri that she gave away as gifts and sold for charity.
Lord Londonderry’s Sitting Room
Step into the private world of the debonair 7th Marquess, Charles, known as Charley, amid the plethora of personal possessions that fill his office. Described as a charming man, he was a keen politician and sportsman and his lifelong passion for aviation is reflected in the room.
Keep an eye out for the collection of humorous caricature statuettes of several politicians including Lloyd George and the Duke of Wellington.
Charles and Edith enjoyed relaxed family breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas here with the vista out over the lavish Sunk Garden that Edith lovingly created in 1920-21.
The room houses a traditional Irish wake table and a collection of Berlin cabinet plates from 1810-20, a diplomatic gift acquired by Charles Stewart when he was British Ambassador in Berlin.
Lady Londonderry’s Sitting Room
Edith’s private sitting room gives a glimpse into the real passions of this clever, warm-hearted and captivating innovator, designer, mother, author and legendary society hostess. It is brimming with her most cherished possessions and was the haven where she set about researching, planning and designing the inspirational gardens for which Mount Stewart is now so famous.
Peruse the bookcase-lined walls full of gardening compendiums and books from friends and guests to Mount Stewart. There are a number of original first editions sent to Edith by their authors inscribed with personalised notes, including the poet WB Yeats, novelist John Buchan and playwright George Bernard Shaw.
West Stairs and Landing
Hanging in pride of place on the staircase is the famous masterpiece by George Stubbs of Hambletonian, Rubbing Down in a new gilt frame. Hambletonian was a hugely successful racehorse which won virtually every race it ran.
On reaching the landing there are more family portraits. The double doors opposite the stairs led to the private bedrooms of Charles and Edith.
On the ground floor is a collection of ceramics including a fine Compagnie des Indes part dinner and dessert service, opulently decorated with the Cowan coat of arms. These date back to the beginning of the family’s fortunes when Alexander Stewart married wealthy heiress Mary Cowan.
Bedroom Suite - Florence, Rome and Naples
With more than 20 bedrooms, Mount Stewart was a regular retreat for eminent guests like Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. These three rooms overlook the Italian gardens and provide some of the best views of Edith’s acclaimed grounds which are considered among the top gardens in the world.
First Floor and Gallery
A stroll down the first floor corridor reveals rooms which were nearly all named after cities visited by Charles, 3rd Marquess, and his wife Frances Anne during their European travels in the early 19th century. From Petrograd to Sebastopol to Amsterdam, it provides a glimpse of their travels.
The corridor reveals the full expanse of the house; halfway along, the double doors open onto the magnificent Central Hall Gallery.
The East Stairs lead to the Chapel and the east end of the house, which at one point was where the Marquess and Marchioness had their private rooms.
In the staircase hall hang portraits of Alexander Stewart and Mary Cowan, who bought the land that became Mount Stewart demesne in 1744. Beside Mary hangs Alexander Cowan whose fortune she inherited, thus providing the funds for the purchase. In the 1850s, Frederick, 4th Marquess created the double height Chapel in memory of his father, the 3rd Marquess from rooms that had been his private bedroom and sitting room.
The beautiful Chapel is still used every month, by the family, for communion service. A place of celebration and mourning, the Chapel has hosted the family’s marriages, christenings and funerals and has been an integral part of life at Mount Stewart.
Edith’s youngest daughter, Lady Mairi, was married here in 1940. After her death in 2009 her funeral was held here before she was buried at Tir N’an Og, Land of the Ever Young, which is the family burial ground, situated north of the lake.
Both Charles, in 1949, and Edith in 1959, passed away at Mount Stewart and their funerals were held in the Chapel.