Gosford Castle

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Name Gosford Castle County Armagh Nearest Town Markethill Access Road B28 About

One of the most unusual sights in the county of Armagh is Gosford Castle and Forest Park which is situated in Gosford, a townland of Markethill, close to the border with County Down. This is a mock Norman Castle finished in painstaking detail to represent the original and complete with 240 acres of grounds that are full of leisure amenities.

Construction of the castle began in 1819 and finished in the 1850s. It was commissioned by Archibald Acheson 2nd Earl of Gosford and the architect was Thomas Hopper, one of the leading London architects of the first half of the 19th century.

Gosford Castle was his first major project using Norman architecture, which placed it amongst the most original buildings of the 19th century. It cannot be ascertained whether the choice was his, as he grew up in Rochester, famous for its 12th century keep, or Lady Gosford s, who paid for the majority of the building and was herself raised in East Anglia, a region rich in Norman remains, such as Castle Hedingham.

The Ministry of Agriculture bought the estate in 1958, establishing Gosford Forest Park and in January 2006 the largest Grade A listed building in Northern Ireland, which is in urgent need of conservation, was bought by a development company which planned to turn it into private homes. In January 2008 the first residents of the 23 apartments moved in.

The estimated 4m repair bill was footed by Gosford Castle Developments, chosen by a government-appointed panel.

In around 1952, Robin Fredden, Historic Buildings Secretary of the National Trust, described Gosford thus:

“It must be regarded as one of the most original buildings of the first half of the nineteenth century for it has no immediate antecedents. The immense granite castle, reputed to be the largest pile in Ireland, with over 150 rooms, sprang fully fledged in its elaborate neo-Norman detail from Hopper’s imagination. A three-storey keep, such as Hopper was to repeat at Penrhyn, and a massive round tower containing a circular drawing-room, are the salient features of the main elevation. Both are ponderously machicolated and achieve those effects of weight and gravity which are the hallmarks of Hopper’s Norman style.”

The interior he thought to be “cramped and oppressive … only the dining room, with engaged pilasters of pink Armagh marble and white plaster decoration, is effective and pleasing.”

It was a habit of Dean Swift to spend time as a guest at the country seat of a number of his Irish friends.

The Ministry of Agriculture bought the estate in 1958, establishing Gosford Forest Park and in January 2006 the largest Grade A listed building in Northern Ireland, which is in urgent need of conservation, was bought by a development company which planned to turn it into private homes. In January 2008 the first residents of the 23 apartments moved in.

The estimated 4m repair bill was footed by Gosford Castle Developments, chosen by a government-appointed panel.

Gosford Forest Park and Castle is open every day of the year from 10.00 a.m. until sunset. Facilities available include:

Camping and Caravanning Site

Picnic and Barbecue areas

Tea House and Shop

Way-Marked Trails

Horse-riding routes

Orienteering routes

Disabled facilities

Bookable Guided Tours

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