Edith, Lady Londonderry

In 1920, Edith settled at Mount Stewart with her husband Charles, the 7th Marquess. At Edith’s encouragement, Charles had decided to follow in his parents’ footsteps and play a leading role in the future of what remained of the union in Ireland. Remaining prominent in both London and Ulster, Edith felt that the Londonderry’s were fulfilling their duties as leading aristocrats, and remaining relevant both nationally as well as in an Irish context. It therefore looked as though Mount Stewart would become a place where they would have to spend significant periods, flitting between it and Londonderry House as socio-political duties demanded. It was in this socio-political climate that Edith found herself increasingly playing a leading role.

By 1921 Edith was immersed in the structural alterations and redecoration of the house, creating new rooms, installing modern bathrooms and kitchens, adding new furnishings and removing that which she did not like. A bold use of colour provided the backdrop for an eclectic and inventive use of textiles, ceramics, furniture and soft electric lighting, which created an evocative and imaginative setting for Edith to reside and entertain in. Undoubtedly this was the house where Edith would leave the indelible mark of her strong personality. Mount Stewart was the house in which she was freer to enact change, as Wynyard and Londonderry House were the official and grander houses, stately and formal, and with the overbearing presence of her mother-in-law still lingering in the shadows. In contrast, Mount Stewart was less formal and in need of improvement, a house that had longed to be embraced and given centrality as a family home once again. This informal style suited both Edith and the changing times of the twentieth century. It was also a welcome break away from the formality and duties of London, both for herself and her family, but also for the guests who came in search of entertainment there. At the hand of Edith, the house would have a rebirth when many of its counterparts were facing decline and destruction.

Increasingly, Mount Stewart became the place where Edith, her family and those she entertained came to relax and get away from it all. Her guests were as eclectic as her tastes in interior decoration, with Princes, Politicians and Poets mixing together in perfect harmony. It became a summer residence where the socio-political climate was at its best, where the social setting was so relaxed that significant conversations could occur without either party being exacerbated by the enormity of the discussion. Her vibrant interior coupled with her fantastical gardens created to her own imaginative designs, added an element of whimsy to the serious, a human touch to the cold climate of class and privilege. Edith carried on the earlier work of Theresa at Mount Stewart, but, indisputably she was quite simply a much defter touch at everything she did there, her incredible and unique taste, charm and personality radiating from every room. Edith invested her soul in the creation of her Mount Stewart, and so it is no wonder that she prepared a burial ground called Tir na Nog, for her and her family to be interred. It is symbolic that the Marchioness of Londonderry, later to become the personification of Mount Stewart, has never left, but remains with it even in death.

Dr Neil Watt, House and Collections Manager