Anne Casement opened the new season with an informative talk on the buildings of Garron Tower.
Frances Anne Tempest, second wife of Charles Stuart, Marquis of Londonderry, built the castle at Garron Tower 1848-1850, as a summer residence, with monies left to her by her mother, Countess of Antrim.
Plans were drawn by Louis Bouliam and the builder/architect was Charles Campbell and his son William.
The site of the castle is in the townland of Dunmor. The lands had been leased to the MacAllister brothers. There were seven houses and 50 people cleared to make way for the castle. The MacAllisters were compensated with £400 to invest in land elsewhere. The families got work on the building site and in the castle/on the estate, once finished.
The famine hit north Antrim by 1845 – the Marquis established a local relief committee; distributed grains and vegetable seeds.
Work on the castle began in 1848. 15 men were employed. The weekly wage bill was £40. By 1850, 84 men were employed.
Most of the materials – slate, glass, brick, paint, alabaster – were sent to site by sea. Basalt from Glenarm Quarry was used, it was expensive to cut and shape. Sand for mortar came from a local beach owned by a Mr. Turnley. Lime was burnt in a kiln on site. Fuel for the kiln was coal from Glasgow.
1849 – additions such as the service yard and alterations were made.
– there was a partial collapse of the rampart during a sever storm. It was rebuilt with stone arches, not earth.
– a site was found for an ice house in a mound of earth moved for the moat at a cost of £114. It is still there.
1850 – The builder C. Campbell died and John Fitzsimons took over.
– a grotto was built for picnics in an existing cave, fitted with benches, decorated with shells.
1850 – house warming, including a 21 gun salute with the canons for the Lieutenant of Ireland.
1850-52: the public road (1.5km) was moved westwards in two stages to put distance between it and the castle’s windows. The cost was £470 plus £50 for digging up the old road.
1852 – a new ballroom was planned at a cost of £1283 plus £97 for panelling.
– 3 wrought iron gates were built at a cost of £141. The materials came from England.
1853 – contract with Kirkwood to build waterworks at a cost of £422.
1859 – Langon and Lynn, architects, drew up plans for a new stable block at £2000.
5 acres of gardens – formal gardens, rose gardens, fish pond, glass houses (for exotic fruits), walks and drives were developed.
Local people worked as paid domestics in the castle, in the gardens, in the limeworks (established by Lord Londonderry) in Carnlough.
Annual wages bills came to £72 in 1850; £396 in 1853.
Local fishermen and farmers sold their goods and services to the castle.
Bathing lodges and the hotel, The Londonerry Arms, were established by Lady Londonderry.
1865 – Lady Londerry died and left Garron Tower in trust for her grandson, then aged 3.
1887 – the castle was furnished to let.
1899- it was developed into a hotel with golf course by Henry O’Neill. He later converted the stables to provide accommodation at a cheaper rate.
World War 2 saw the end of the hotel.
1957 – St. Mac Nissi’s school was established. It is now known as St. Killian’s.