One day we went to Springhill. Described in the guide book as ‘surely the prettiest house in Ulster’ it’s a mile away from Moneymore, and some of our relatives used to work there living in a house in the grounds. We reckon it might have been the lodge, just near the gates.
None of those relatives are still alive to refute the stories told about them in our branch of the family, and of course they may have their root in vulgar jealousy, but they sound as though they shared some genes with Hyacinth Bucket. Although they were employees, they believed themselves better than Springhill House’s owmers, the Conynghams, who danated the house to the National Trust in 1957. There were peacocks back in the day, and my relatives felt personally slighted if they spent time on the lawns of the big house rather than with them.
For some reason I didn’t take a picture of the front of the house. I can’t explain this lapse and I apologise for it. But I have borrowed this one from Wiki.
It was sunnier when we were there.
The original house was smaller, just the middle section, but the wings were added for a Conyngham who had travelled and felt his home looked too much like an ordinary farmhouse. We went on the tour which lasts about forty-five minutes and was great fun. Photography was allowed so long as no flash was used, but with a dozen or so people it was hard to take peopleless pix. However, I did manage a few. My favourite is the piece of furniture with an inscription to say who it was maid (sic) by.
I didn’t get a printable photo of the staircase which is made of yew and a rare survivor. Most were ripped out when they fell from fashion.
Back outside I was surprised to find the skies still so blue. The whitewashed walls and walled gardens were a delight.
I didn’t make it to the new Titanic Quarter in Belfast, but no worries, Springhill had its own Titanic connection. A young daughter of the house had travelled on the ship from Southampton to Cherbourg. She wrote an affectionate letter back to Louisa, her nursemaid, which gave this small exhibition a poignancy and intimacy many larger ones lack. For all the many times I have seen photos of the ship, and I have seen where it was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard before it was turned into a gleaming tourist destination, somehow this was the first occasion when I really understood the scale of the Titanic. You can see the letter here though I took a photo of my own, it is nowhere near as good! Somehow it brought the costumes, the details of first class accommodation, to life. Go if you can.
Although we have often driven by Springhill, and I have heard the family stories many many times, this was my first proper visit. I’d really like to go back and learn more. I think the guide book got it about right.