Situated on the Stormont Estate is a manor house known as Stormont Castle. The castle is in east Belfast and is an absolutely exquisite example of Scottish baronial architecture. Nowadays, it is a Grade A listed building.
The history of Stormont Castle
This gorgeous manor house is home to the Northern Ireland Executive as well as the Executive Office. It is an extremely attractive castle, and it overlooks the beautiful city below it. While in a true sense it isn’t a castle, but a manor house, it has still been named many times as one of the most beautiful castles in Ireland.
The early history
Stormont Castle was completed in 1830 and was rebuilt in 1858 by its original owners. The original owners, the Cleland family, hired an architect known as Thomas Turner to build the castle in a gorgeous Scottish baronial style with extravagant features such as bartizans for decorative purposes. In 1921, the building, as well as the surrounding 235 acres (95 ha) of adjoining land, was purchased by the newly established Government of Northern Ireland for only £15,000.
An official residence
Between 1921 and 1972, the Stormont Castle served as the official residence of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. However, a large number of Prime Ministers chose to live at Stormont House, the official residence of the Speaker of the House of Commons of Northern Ireland, which was empty as a number of Speakers had chosen to live in their own homes. The castle also served as the official meeting place for the Cabinet of the Government of Northern Ireland.
In 1972, with the imposition of direct rule, Stormont Castle served as the Belfast headquarters of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Office ministers, and all supporting officials. It was also briefly used by MI5 officers during The Troubles.
The current day
In 2001, the £7.5m renovation was finally completed. It is said that the work done was the most extensive completed since the building’s construction. The architect even stated that “[the] objective was to create a modern, functioning office space while maintaining the historic character of the building.” The castle is now open to the public every year on the European Heritage Open Day.
You may be interest in other Irish castles such as Portumna Castle.
Stormont Castle Timeline
- 1830- Stormont Castle is completed
- 1858- The castle is rebuilt by its original owners
- 1921- The building, as well as the surrounding 235 acres (95 ha) of adjoining land, is purchased by the newly established Government of Northern Ireland for only £15,000
- 1921 to 1972- Stormont Castle serves as the official residence of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
- 1972- With the imposition of direct rule, Stormont Castle serves as the Belfast headquarters of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Office ministers, and all supporting officials
- 2001- The £7.5m renovation is finally completed
Stormont Castle facts
- The estate now has a number of large offices as well as the listed buildings
- Much of the wealth that allowed the Cleland to develop the land and property at Stormont was allegedly ill-gotten
- The Townland Valuations show that Stormont was valued at £50 14 shillings in the 1830s
- Cleland’s son, Samuel Cleland, took over the Stormont Estate after his father’s death but was killed when supervising the demolition of a wall within the grounds
- Stormont Castle was rebuilt because its owners thought it was plain
Nowadays, Stormont Castle is open to the public and entry is completely free. It has stunning, fragrant gardens as well as a variety of walks, fitness, and adventure trails. You will also find a delightful children’s playground, picnic and barbeque areas, and historic buildings within the grounds.
Many events are held on the grounds every year. Nearby, you can visit the Victoria Square Dome, Botanic Gardens, the SSE Arena, and C.S. Lewis Square.