|8x10 print, Flowerfield House, Portstewart, bathed in lovely winter light. HP5+/ID-11 on Kentmere|
But as usual, I digress. The point I was trying to make is that Coleraine had quite a number of large manor houses at the turn of the 20th Century. Over the years most have been knocked down - not to be replaced by anything remotely architecturally or historically interesting, of course. No, in place we have County Hall (a 60s-something high rise government building), a Tesco supermarket (enough said) and other minor box-like public buildings put up in the 1960s. Flowerfield remains one of the very few Big Houses left still standing.
The history of Flowefield is almost a history of this part of Ireland - the original house was built in 1710 by the Kerr family from Scotland, who arrived during the Plantation of Ulster. It was then owned by the O'Hara family, who are synonymous with Portstewart, having built the Gothic Castle by the sea which is now Dominican College, an 11-18 Grammar School. By 1971 though, Flowerfield was vacant and in disrepair when the Council, to their credit, stepped in and purchased it. It was actually the first Arts Centre to be opened in Northern Ireland, in 1980. That was just before I left The Liberties to study in England and I can recall going to at least one meeting of the 'Coleraine Camera Club' in Flowerfield. Funny that - here I am nearly 40 years later still wandering around the place with a camera. For me at least, things have turned full circle now that I am back living in the area in which I grew up.