We bet you'd look good on this dance floor
The black and white tiles are being removed to reveal the original stone floor in the central hall at Mount Stewart
For many visitors, the black and white tiles in the central hall at Mount Stewart are an iconic feature of this magnificent estate and yet the monochrome floor is a fairly recent addition, being laid by Lady Mairi in the 1960s.
Revealing the past
In the final phase of an £8million conservation project to restore this family home to its former glory, the modern tiles are being lifted to reveal the original stone floor which dates back to the 1840’s.
The sandstone used in the floor came from nearby Scrabo quarry and perfectly complements the recently restored stone-coloured walls, bringing the central hall back to its heyday glory.
Costing £300,000, the floor restoration is expected to take five months and will include the removal of the linoleum tiles and underlying bituminous compound; cleaning and resurfacing of the original stone floor and the repair and replacement of stones where required.
Funding for the project came from donations and legacy gifts, both of which provide a vital source of income for our conservation work as fundraising manager Wendy Elliott explains: ‘When we take on ownership of a special place, it’s for ever. As a conservation charity we rely on the generosity of people who make donations and leave gifts in their Wills. While membership fees are invaluable, they only cover one third of the cost of caring for all the houses, countryside, coastline, gardens and unique buildings we look after. To us, all gifts are immensely generous, however big or small.’
The central hall at Mount Stewart is, architecturally and symbolically, the most important and impressive space in the house. It forms the main public and family circulation space and provides access to the principal reception rooms, the West Wing, the East Stairs and service wing.
Jon Kerr, general manager at Mount Stewart said: ‘This sympathetic restoration of the stone floor in the central hall is the final chapter of an ambitious project to bring this family home back to its former glory and truly showcase the history of this special place.
‘We are extremely proud that the project was recently awarded the building conservation award at the 2016 Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Awards. The award recognises the hard work of the project team and the hundreds of volunteers that made it all possible.
We are also delighted that we were able to keep the house open during this huge project so that our supporters and visitors could see conservation in action.’
See conservation in action
To allow the specialist stone conservators the opportunity to clean and polish large areas of the floor, work will be carried out in three phases, with each area being screened off to contain the dust.
As phase one of the project nears completion, the sheer scale of the task can be appreciated by visitors who are encouraged to watch ‘conservation in action’ through two viewing screens into the hall.
Work is expected to be finished by mid-March when the newly revealed stone floor will complete the restoration of this wonderful house, returning it to the style which Edith, Lady Londonderry originally intended.
Fundraising for this project and others, including the restoration of the walled garden at Mount Stewart continues. Contributions can be made at donation boxes in Mount Stewart, or online
Every donation, no matter what size, really counts. Thank you for your support.