Brownlow Castle

Vol. 3 No. 1 - 1975

Brownlow Castle

a legacy of the past

by Kieran Clendenning

To awaken interest in the people of the province to the aims of the European Architectural Heritage Year 1975 the Northern Ireland Committee are to conduct a publicity campaign over the next few months. Emphasis is being placed on giving buildings of historical or architectural interest a living role in contemporary society. Mr. Phillip Bell of Lurgan, who is publicity officer of the Northern Ireland committee, stresses that projects need not be on a monumental scale.

Over the years Lurgan has been adorned with a number of houses which illustrate its history. Some of these have suffered badly but there are still several interesting specimens surviving.

The town houses in Church Place, built by the Rev. A. Fforde, about 1760 and now occupied by the Sisters of Mercy, is a good example of Georgian architecture but the finest example is Hurst Seeds office in High Street. These two houses still have the railings which were typical of such buildings.

The most outstanding example of architecture in Lurgan is Brownlow House which with its forest of chimneys stacks dominates the skyline.

Front entrance of Brownlow House

Built in the Elizabethan style for the Rt. Hon. Charles Brownlow it was called Lurgan House, until Mr. Brownlow was raised to the peerage in 1839.

William Henry Playfair

To design this mansion Charles Brownlow engaged one of the most outstanding architects of his day, the celebrated William Henry Playfair, whose many fine classical buildings gave Edinburgh the title of the Athens of the North.

A collection of 383 architectural drawings for Brownlow House (probably one of the most outstanding complete' records of a 19th century Ulster house) can be seen at the library of Edinburgh University.

Brownlow House when completed must have aroused much interest in Irish Architects for even as late as 1840 they were still building in the Georgian style.

Brownlow House from the air

Built of Scottish sandstone and surmounted by a slim tower the house has a tremendous character and individuality. A feature of the exterior is the complicated variety of, pierced scroll-work and interlacing bands sometimes in geometrical patterns on the chimneys.

Details of pierced scroll-work on the ceiling of the dining room of Brownlow House.

One of the most interesting and probably one of the most neglected features of the interior of the house is the treatment of wall decoration and ceiling ornament.

On the grand stair case there are beautiful examples of free brushwork in the ceiling panels, while the windows are executed also in coloured glass charged, with the armorial bearings of the Brownlow and allied families.

The walls of the three main reception rooms have some of the finest examples of imitation Vert antique marble panelled and painted on by Italian workmen, while the ceilings grained to represent expensive woods, were executed by Scottish craftsmen brought over in the 1840's.