Featured image of Kilwaughter Castle

The History of Kilwaughter Castle

LocationKilwaughter, County Antrim, Northern Ireland (Google Map Location)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byAnne Ferguson
Official WebsiteKilwaughter Castle
Rooms AvailableNo

Established 400 years ago, Kilwaughter Castle was the cornerstone for the Scottish Baronial style establishments in Ireland. It’s famously known for the role it played in World War II and the family has it housed. It has in a true sense thrived through the glory and the damnation alike.

History

Kilwaughter Castle in its early days was a T-plan tower house owned by the Lochnaw Agnews family. The four storeys build was situated on a  spread of approximately 10,000 acres, initially secured from King James VI. This expansion resulted in the land being addressed as the largest landholdings in Ireland in the early 1800s. Sir Patrick Agnew, 8th Sheriff of Galloway, commissioned the base structure of the tower house. The property was most advantageous for the Agnews family as they collected substantial rent off it. But due to the inconsistency and blatant non-cooperation of the tenants, Sir James Agnew, a descendant of Sir Patrick’s, couldn’t keep up with the maintenance and sold the property off. Here, agent Patrick Agnew acquired the property at a very economical price. This is where the family’s name went for a nosedive.

It was Patrick Agnew’s great-grandson Edward Jones Agnew who inherited it in 1806. He launched himself on a mission to reinstate the family glory by re-building the once glorious Kilwaughter Castle. He joined forces with a British architect John Nash to remodel the house into a concrete structure, befitting the land’s and family’s power and stature.

In theory, Kilwaughter Castle has been home to many. It ranges from the Italian countess Balzani to American-born John Galt Smith to his fellow Americans who were wounded in World War I. Since the Smiths leased it out only until 1922, Kilwaughter Castle was again under the name of the Italian Balzani family during World War II (1939) and hence, declared as enemy property.

After such a turn of events, Kilwaughter Castle was seized by the British government. Now, this castle acted as a training camp for both British and Americans. The very last occupants of this castle were the American soldiers, and more importantly, of the 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion, residing here in preparation for D-Day landings which as we all know, historically flipped the war’s tide.

With such phenomenal history and rich roots, the castle nonetheless saw its downfall in the early 20th century. It was possible because of a series of Land Acts and post-World War II implications where it was stripped and torn off its luxury that left the mighty Kilwaughter Castle in ruins.

To remedy the situation, Anne Ferguson’s father bought the castle in the 1980s. Today along with Kilwaughter Castle Restoration Group, she and the town residents strive to take good measures to salvage and restore the castle.

Architecture

Kilwaughter Castle is known for its simple English laid foundation which today is categorized into as Georgian Castle style. Years down the lane, when this multi-layered tower house was deemed uncomfortable for living in, John Nash was brought in. It was due to his strong influence from the neo-classical vision and Italian perseverance, that transcended this plantation house into the romantic castle it is today.

John Nash was famously known for his picturesque designs with a dominant neoclassical influence. This was very well mirrored in his final structures in the west wing and the fountain at the front. Furthermore, he re-structured the 17th-century simple house with a dining room, a kitchen, and a round tower to heighten the sense of luxury, warmth, and comfort. Adding on, the beauty of the castle was enhanced when without uprooting the original structure John Nash elegantly delivered the tower house.

Later in the second half of the 19th century, an additional octagonal tower and an extra chamber made it the building it was always supposed to be. This last re-construction of the structure subtly underlined the American influence in the background.


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