Tour The Argory

The Drawing Room at The Argory, County Armagh

Welcome to The Argory, the home of Mr Bond, the last of four generations of the MacGeough Bond family. Designed by brothers Arthur and John Williamson of Dublin, the house was built by Mr Bond's great-grandfather, Walter. The Argory was gifted to the National Trust in 1979. Designed in approximately 1819, started in 1820 and finished about 1824, The Argory came into existence due to a quirky stipulation in a will. Created with Caledon stone in coursed ashlar blocks with Navan limestone window sills, quoins and foundations, the interior of this understated and intimate house remains unchanged since 1900.

What to look out for on a tour of The Argory?

Highlights of the House 

The house was largely closed up at the end of the Second World War, with Mr Bond, the last owner, moving into the North Wing. What you see today is a result of four generations of collecting, treasured by Mr Bond, displayed as he remembers it from his childhood.

The West Hall

Walk into the West Hall to admire the cantilevered staircase with its gleaming brass uprights. Can you work out where the flue for the heating stove is?

Read out our latest curatorial and conservation news, projects and expertise.
The West Hall at The Argory, County Armagh, Northern Ireland
Read out our latest curatorial and conservation news, projects and expertise.

The Drawing Room

Step into this elegant Victorian room and your eye will be drawn to the beautiful rosewood Steinway grand piano which offers a magnificient centre piece to this inviting room.

The Steinway Piano was purchased in 1898 by Captain Ralph Shelton, second owner of The Argory. Mr Bond had a great love of music and often spent time attending concerts and recitals. He himself hoped to become a concert pianist; however, he notes that ill health and circumstance prevented him from achieving this ambition.

The Drawing Room at The Argory, County Armagh
The Drawing Room at The Argory, County Armagh
The Drawing Room at The Argory, County Armagh

The Organ Lobby 

The Organ Lobby houses the original cabinet barrel organ commissioned in 1822 from James Bishop.

Visitors are invited to play the finger element during a tour of the house
Visitors are invited to play the finger element during a tour of the house
Visitors are invited to play the finger element during a tour of the house

Dining Room

Using images from Country Life in the 1980s as a reference point, the table in the Dining Room is currently laid for afternoon tea using Salisbury china from the 1930s.

Admire the dining room at The Argory
Dining room at The Argory
Admire the dining room at The Argory

Billiard Room

Traditionally thought of as part of a male suite of rooms, the Billiard Room has reopened having been closed to the public for a few years. Billiards was so loved as a rainy day and an after-dinner activity, that a whole room was devoted to it. 

The Victorian bookcase on the south wall of the Billiard Room was purchased c. 1902 at the sale of William Verner’s estate at Churchill (present day Peatlands Park). It was installed by estate worker Eccles Maguire and his signature can still be seen on the top behind the decorative detailing.

Bookcase in the Billiard Room at The Argory, County Armagh
Bookcase in the Billiard Room at The Argory, County Armagh
Bookcase in the Billiard Room at The Argory, County Armagh

What else to look out for on a tour of The Argory?

As you wander around The Argory look out for the original acetylene gas lighting fittings which can be seen in a variety of striking styles throughout the house.

Acetylene light fittings

In 1906 The Argory was converted to run on acetylene gas. The second owner, Captain Shelton, commissioned the Sunbeam Acetylene Gas Company to install a manufacturing plant in the laundry yard and to lay a network of pipes that would carry the gas into the house. At the same time, the house was furnished with a plethora of new light fittings and some original fittings were converted.

In the archive we have found receipts for the entire lighting project, including the list of ‘new’ fittings installed in 1906. We also have receipts for subsequent routine maintenance and for the regular deliveries of calcium carbide which was required for the production of acetylene.

Acetylene gas enjoyed only a brief period of popularity as a country house technology before being superseded by electricity. However, the McGeough Bond family never installed electricity in the main part of the house and so the system at The Argory was still in full working order when the house came to the Trust in 1979.

Acetylene light fitting before and after cleaning and lacquering
Acetylene light fitting
Acetylene light fitting before and after cleaning and lacquering

The McGeough Bond Collection

The decision to commission a piece of contemporary art to hang in place of our West Hall chandelier continues a tradition of welcoming modern art into the house.

The last owner of The Argory, Mr Walter Albert Neville McGeough Bond was one of the foremost collectors of art in Northern Ireland in the 20th century, and he had a particular interest in modern art. Mr Bond wrote:

 ‘There has been talent among my forebears for both painting and music. But accident and ill-health deprived me of a musical career; for compensation I collect the art of others. I grew up among a variety of collected objects including pictures and sculpture; thus the idea was familiar to me from childhood.’

The McGeough Bond collection included several sculptures by Duncan Johnston, including ‘The Agony of Man,’ as well as paintings by Basil Blackshaw, George Campbell and T.P. Flanagan. Although much of the collection was later dispersed, The Argory still houses works by Cecil McCartney and F.E. McWilliam, which are on display to visitors along with Kevin’s installation.

The F.E. McWilliam bronze sculpture in the East Hall is titled “Woman of Belfast No.2”

Artificial Sunshine

In 2018, the team at the historic house took the bold decision to commission a contemporary light installation to replace the West Hall chandelier during its conservation in London. Lit up by its bright reception, the team redesigned and relocated ‘Artificial Sunshine’ within the North Wing at the end of 2019. Mounted on the wall in the Service Stairs, the stunning chandelier has evolved to suit its new space while maintaining the spirit of the original design. The North Wing is where the last owner of The Argory, Mr Walter Albert Neville McGeough Bond, lived and housed his collection of modern art, so its permanent new home continues the tradition of welcoming modern art into the house.

Kevin Killen, Artificial Sunshine
Neon light installation - The Argory
Kevin Killen, Artificial Sunshine
  • Birkenhead disaster - Find out how Captain Shelton defied death in this horrific tragedy in 1862.
  • Costume collection - Discover items from the recently rediscovered costume collection, ranging from stunningly embroidered Georgian men’s waistcoats to elegant ladies' 20th century clothes and accessories.