Saturday, 28 January 2017


I mentioned the other day about having a wander about last weekend.  This is Flowerfield House, now a local Arts Centre:

8x10 print, Flowerfield House, Portstewart, bathed in lovely winter light.  HP5+/ID-11 on Kentmere
The NE Liberties - Coleraine in particular - was a very wealthy area at the end of the 19th/early 20th Century, mainly due to the linen industry.  "Colerains" linen (as it was known in them days) was recognised as the finest Irish linen - I recall my grandparents talking about the pungent smell of the flax during the retting process in the dams.  The actual process of making linen is pretty amazing - read about it here.  One can only assume that the steps evolved from decades of knowledge gleaned not from textbooks but from pure hands-on experience and the passing of that knowledge from generation to generation.  Different days, for sure.

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.


  1. Lovely building, and as usual a fair bit of a nice history lesson following the great snap of it.
    Reminds me that I should have checked if I ever wrote a few words about the wool factory at the other side of the island where I live these days. I think I did, but it might have been elsewhere for all I know.
    I have been out and about to snap up a few things this weekend, you see. You may even read about it some time quite soon if I manage to get my brain signals hit my fingertips in some sort of way.
    Great post and interesting reading, Michael :)

    1. Thanks Roy appreciate the comment. Wool factory, eh? So maybe your island has (or had) some of those sheep-things at one time. Those things can live in just about any weather conditions, or so it seems to me. In fact, they seem to like it a bit rough and cold and wet. Good job, living where they do...