Tele Recommends: Northern Ireland's best historical buildings
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Dr Paul Larmour is an architectural historian and Reader in Architecture at Queen's University, Belfast. He is author of many books on Irish architecture and design
Asked to name Northern Ireland's five best historical buildings, he recommends...
The Palm House, Botanic Gardens, Belfast
This is not just one of the best examples of a curvilinear iron and glass structure in Ireland but is one of the oldest surviving anywhere. Designed by the architect Charles Lanyon, its wings of 1839-40 were manufactured by Richard Turner and are even earlier than Turner's masterpiece, the Great Palm House at Kew Gardens in London.
Belfast City Hall
Designed by the architect Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas in 1896 and opened 10 years later, Belfast City Hall was built in the heyday of the city's rise to economic power and immediately became its chief architectural glory, a status it maintains today. It is beautifully finished throughout using the finest materials.
This grand house is always fascinating, even on return visits, for the curious difference between its two main facades, and the ground floor interior rooms, with one side of the house in the classical Palladian style and the other in the Gothic style with pointed-arch windows. It was built in 1762-73, and while its architect is not known, tradition tells us it was the differing tastes of the owner Lord Bangor that caused its unusual appearance.
Derrymore House, Bessbrook
For anyone who thinks thatched roofs were only for old Irish vernacular cottages, a visit to Derrymore House of c1780 will show that gentlemen of the late Georgian era also liked the appearance of thatch. This house was built for Isaac Corry and has a series of units arranged around an open court creating an unexpectedly grand effect.
Mussenden Temple, Downhill
Perched on the edge of a cliff, this is the best surviving element of the Earl of Bristol, Bishop of Derry's great demesne at Downhill which he decorated with a series of neo-classical buildings inspired by those of ancient Rome. Based on the design of a circular Roman temple, this one was actually built as a library, and although the books are now long gone, the wonderful view which the romantic bishop had over the sea can still be enjoyed.
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