Skip to content

Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Castle, former stable block and stone steps

Date of Construction:
1820 - 1839

Address :
Stormont Castle Stormont Estate Upper Newtownards Road Belfast County Antrim BT4 3XX


Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
13/03/1987 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
J4027 7481

Owner Category

Central Govt

Exterior Description And Setting

Detached multi-bay three-storey over basement turreted Scots Baronial sandstone castle, built c.1830, remodelled in 1858, to the designs of Thomas Turner. Irregular on plan facing south with two-storey wing to the rear and connecting former stable range to the northeast. Set on a mature landscaped site to the east of the Stormont Estate. Extensively renovated and refurbished c.1990. Symmetrical principal block built c.1830, refaced and remodeled c.1858 with the addition of a four-stage entrance tower to the south east and two-storey wing to rear. Rear wing interconnects with the south range of the former stable yard (HB26/13/016) fronted by a crenellated screen wall with gabled and turreted projection to the west and clock tower to the east. Hipped natural slate roofs with rolled lead ridges and lead finials, lead valleys, decorative profiled sandstone ashlar chimneystacks with black pots and replacement iron box hoppers and downpipes. All roofs set behind crenellated parapet walls. Lead-lined roofs to all towers and lead-lined conical roofs topped by iron and brass finials to bartizans. Random coursed rock-faced sandstone ashlar walling with smooth moulded dressings and string courses. Square-headed window openings with flush sandstone architrave surrounds and single-pane timber sash windows. Four-stage square-plan turreted and battered entrance tower, built c.1860, to the southeast of the principal block. Lead-lined flat roof set behind crenellated parapet wall with machicolated course to the base. Three outer corners have bartisans with a five-stage square-plan stair tower to the northwest corner. Tripartite round-headed openings to the upper stage, bipartite to the first and second floors and deeply recessed timber sash windows to basement level. South elevation abutted by a square-plan sandstone ashlar portico and flight of steps. Portico comprises and square plan with four banded Doric piers, plain entablature and pierced balustrade over with ball finials. Double-leaf timber paneled doors open onto the raised platform while the replacement sandstone steps are enclosed by pierced and solid balustrades terminated by a pair of stone gryphons. South elevation to principal elevation is five windows wide, framed by bartisans to either end rising from clasping piers with a central breakfront and two-storey canted bay window. Roof is set behind crenellated parapet wall with string course to base and a crow-stepped gable with ball finial to the central breakfront. Pierced stone balustrade surmounts the central bay with the central second floor window having a carved stone overpanel. Iron bars to basement windows. Asymmetrical west side elevation is also framed by bartisans and abutted to the south by an octagonal four-stage tower and a projecting chimneystack to the north end. The tower rises from a square-plan base and has lead-lined roof with iron cresting. Shallow single-storey over basement rectangular bay window to the central bay with lead-lined roof, stone transom and mullions glazed with timber casement windows. To the right is a square-headed door opening with timber French doors and overlight opening onto a flight of stone steps enclosed by stone balustrades bridging the basement. Rear north elevation is three windows wide and abutted by a two-storey rear wing to the east end with a four-stage square-plan tower to the inner angle. The exposed section of the rear elevation has a symmetrical composition with a square-plan ground floor over basement bay window to the left, three-sided canted to the right and a central shallow breakfront. Double-gabled east side elevation abutted by a four-stage square-plan tower (to the front pile) and abutted by the two-storey return to the rear pile enclosed by a short crenellated screen wall. Lead-lined ogee roof to tower with decorative finial and occuli to the upper stage only. Two-storey over basement rear wing has crenellations and bartisans, as per above, with crow-stepped gabled ends and a central entrance bay to the east elevation framed by a further pair of bartisans. A gablet over the entrance has a date plaque stating; “1856”, with a glazed porch below. The south range to the former stable yard now forms part of the castle interior comprising a single-storey crenellated stone block abutted by a square-plan three-stage battered clock tower to the east end and a single-bay two-storey projection to the west end with diminutive square tower. The clock tower has a lead-lined sprocketed roof surmounted by a timber lantern with ogee lead-lined roof and vane. Round-headed opening at clock stage with a timber framed louvred frame and gilded iron clock face. Curved stone screen wall to the east end with crenellations and balustraria. Setting: Located on an elevated mature site to the southeast of Stormont Parliament (HB26/13/013) on the east of the Stormont Estate, enclosed by modern security fencing. "Formal bedding in the vicinity of the glasshouse and immediately to the west of the house, was recorded in its original form in R Welch’s photographs of 1894 but have now gone." (Register of Parks,Gardens & Desmesnes). Four sets of stone steps are the only evidence remaining of the formal garden to the west of the castle. Roof Natural slate & lead RWG Cast Iron Walling Rock-faced random coursed ashlar sandstone Windows Single-pane timber sash / timber casement


Turner, Thomas

Historical Information

Stormont Castle, a three-storey former gentleman’s mansion located within the Stormont Estate, was constructed in c. 1830. The Scots-Baronial building took its current appearance following an extension by Thomas Turner in 1858 and, following 1921, the mansion was acquired and converted into headquarters for the newly-formed Northern Ireland Government. Stormont was built around 1830 for the Rev. John Cleland (1755-1834). The first edition Ordnance Survey map (1834) depicted the mansion as a square-shaped structure captioned ‘Storm Mount.’ The contemporary Ordnance Survey Memoirs (c. 1830) described Cleland’s dwelling as a ‘large plain house with very little planting around it’ whilst the map shows that the adjoining outbuildings (HB26/13/016), as well as the gothic conservatory (HB26/13/015), had not been erected by 1834. The Rev. John Cleland was a local magistrate and the rector of Newtownards and had acquired the Stormont Estate by marrying the daughter of the previous owner. Cleland was described as ‘a fearsome magistrate and man of dubious reputation [as] much of the wealth which allowed him to develop the land and property at Stormont was allegedly ill-gotten’ (Gallagher, p. 22). The Townland Valuations record that Stormont was valued at £50 14s. in the 1830s. Cleland’s son Samuel Cleland took over the Stormont Estate following his father’s death in 1834 but was killed whilst supervising the demolition of a wall in the grounds in 1842. Samuel Cleland’s widow, Elizabeth, took over the Stormont Estate following her husband’s death and continued to reside there until c. 1860. Elizabeth Cleland was responsible for the decision to redesign Stormont House. The three-storey extension to the north of the original house, as well as the tower to the east side, were added by Dublin-based architect Thomas Turner (d. 1891) in 1858. The original mansion was encased with locally-quarried Scrabo Sandstone that had been employed for the new wings. Gallagher states that ‘it is not clear to what extent the original house survives. There is some historical evidence that the symmetrical five-bay block facing south contains the shell of the original Georgian dwelling.’ The construction work was contracted out to John Lowry and cost approximately £10,000 (NSD; DIA). As a result of the redesign the ‘plain’ Stormont House was transformed into the Scots Baronial ‘Stormont Castle,’ with the installation of ornamental fortifications including crenulated parapets, the turrets and towers, and with decorative gryphons providing a further defence. The extension also included the construction of the outbuildings to the north-east of the mansion and a gate lodge at the Upper Newtownards Road entrance to the demesne (now demolished). The second edition Ordnance Survey map (1860) records that the two-storey extension to the north-east side of the building was not constructed by Turner but was the result of further extension work undertaken between 1860 and c. 1890. Following the redesign, Stormont Castle and its associated buildings were increased in value to £350 under Griffith’s Valuation (1860-61). John Cleland, a local magistrate and Elizabeth Cleland’s son, had taken possession of the property by the 1860s. In 1864 the value of Cleland’s property was decreased to £300 after the magistrate appealed against such a high rating. The value remained at £300 until the 1930s despite later changes that were undertaken in the intervening period. The Cleland family continued to reside at Stormont Castle until 1893 when the mansion was rented out to other occupants. A photograph of Stormont Castle (dated c. 1894) shows that the two-storey north-east extension had been constructed by the time the Cleland’s vacated the property. The first (and only) tenant of Stormont Castle was Charles Allen, a local shipbuilder with Workman, Clark & Co., which was the second largest shipbuilder in Belfast (and fourth largest shipbuilder in Britain). Allen resided at Stormont Castle from 1893 until 1920 when the mansion was put up for sale by the Cleland family. Following the Government of Ireland Act (1920) Northern Ireland was established as a self-governing part of the United Kingdom with Belfast as it’s provincial capital. The search for a site for the new parliament began almost immediately after the passing of the Act. There were originally a number of potential sites for the establishment of the new parliament buildings, all of which were located in Belfast. Belvoir Park, Belfast Castle and Orangefield were rejected and a proposal to buy the Assembly College outright was quickly voted down. In September 1921 the estate and manor house at Stormont Castle was selected as the perfect site. The parliament voted in approval of the decision on 20th September 1921 noting that the Stormont Estate was ‘the place where the new Parliament Houses and Ministerial Buildings shall be erected and as the place to be determined as the seat of the Government of Northern Ireland as and when suitable provision has been made therefore.’ In December 1921 the Stormont Estate was purchased by the Commissioners of Public Works and Buildings of the Imperial Government at a cost of £20,334 (UAHS). Following the purchase of Stormont, the Northern Ireland Government intended to demolish Stormont Castle in order to make way for the new parliament buildings. The mansion was ultimately incorporated into the plans for the estate following local pressure to retain it. Between 1922 and 1972 the former gentleman’s mansion was utilised as the official residence of the Northern Ireland Prime Minister and also functioned as the headquarters for the Cabinet Secretariat and the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service (Gallagher; UAHS, p. 14). Following the opening of Parliament Buildings (HB26/13/013) in 1932, the value of Stormont Castle was increased to £360 under the First General Revaluation of Property in Northern Ireland (1935). The original gate lodge to Stormont Castle was demolished in order to accommodate the construction of new government buildings in c. 1962. By the end of the Second Revaluation (1956-72) the total value of Stormont Castle had been greatly raised to £2,060 as a result of internal alterations undertaken during the 1960s. During Direct Rule, Stormont Castle was utilised as the headquarters of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Scots Baronial mansion was listed Category B+ in 1987. Following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and subsequent St. Andrew’s Agreements (2006-07), Stormont Castle has been utilised as the offices of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. In recent years the property has underwent a number of alterations. The two stained glass windows installed within the main tower of Stormont Castle were gifted by St. Elizabeth’s Parish Church in Dundonald in 2001. The windows were memorials to Mrs Cleland and were moved from the church after it fell vacant. Between 2006 and 2009 Stormont Castle underwent an extensive renovation that returned the exterior of the building to its original Victorian splendour whilst providing modern office accommodation within. The restoration of the sandstone façade was undertaken by S. McConnell & Sons Ltd. whilst the extension to the north of the building, designed ‘in a modern idiom which respects the historic context,’ was added to house the Executive Information Service. The modern stained glass window, located above the landing of the main staircase, was designed by David Esler and was added as part of the 2006-2009 renovation (Stormont Castle Restoration Booklet). References Primary Sources 1. PRONI OS/6/3/5/1 – First Edition Ordnance Survey Map (1834) 2. PRONI OS/6/3/5/2 – Second Edition Ordnance Survey Map (1860) 3. PRONI OS/6/3/5/3 – Third Edition Ordnance Survey Map (1901-02) 4. PRONI OS/6/3/5/4 – Fourth Edition Ordnance Survey Map (1919-20) 5. PRONI OS/6/3/5/5 – Fifth Edition Ordnance Survey Map (1938-39) 6. PRONI VAL/1/A/3/5 – Townland Valuation Plan (c. 1830) 7. PRONI VAL/1/B/317 – Townland Valuation (c. 1830) 8. PRONI VAL/2/B/3/17 – Griffith’s Valuation (1860-61) 9. PRONI VAL/12/B/17/8A-F – Annual Revisions (1864-1929) 10. PRONI VAL/12/B/17/5A - Annual Revisions (1923-1929) 11. PRONI VAL/3/B/4/4 – First General Revaluation of Northern Ireland (1935) 12. PRONI VAL/4/B/3/21 – Second General Revaluation of Northern Ireland (1956-1972) 13. Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland: Vol. 7, Co. Down II (1832-34; 1837) 14. Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) 15. Ulster Town Directories (1843-1943) 16. First Survey Record – HB26/13/014 (1985) 17. First Survey Image – HB26/13/014 (No Date) 18. NIEA HB Records – HB26/13/014 Secondary Sources 1. ‘Stormont Castle’ Belfast: Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister, c. 2009. 2. ‘Parliament Buildings Stormont: The building, its setting, uses and restoration 1922-1998’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1999. 3. Gallagher, J., ‘Stormont: The house on the hill’ Belfast: Booklink, 2008. 4. Larmour, P., ‘Belfast: An illustrated architectural guide’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1987. 5.Register of Parks, Gardens and Demesnes of Special Historic Interest. Built Heritage:EHS, 2007 Online Resources 1. Dictionary of Irish Architects - 2. Natural Stone Database -

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form H+. Alterations enhancing the building I. Quality and survival of Interior J. Setting K. Group value

Historic Interest

Y. Social, Cultural or Economic Importance Z. Rarity V. Authorship W. Northern Ireland/International Interest


Detached multi-bay three-storey over basement turreted Scots Baronial sandstone house, built c.1830, remodelled in 1858, to the designs of Thomas Turner. The late Georgian origins of this house have been masked over by the remodeling of the 1850s which transformed the house into a picturesque turreted castle. The building has seen successive refurbishment works, restoration and partial rebuilding where original fabric was removed and reinstated or faithfully reproduced. The principal rooms and the stairhall retain the character of the castle while the well maintained exterior and grounds retains its external appearance and setting. This building is a rare example of this type of architecture in Northern Ireland and the role of the building in the government of Northern Ireland adds its status and National importance. It has group value with the other listed buildings in the Stormont estate.

General Comments

Listing Criteria R - Age; S - Authenticity; T - Historic Importanceand and U - Historic Associations, also apply.

Date of Survey

24 February 2014