1865 – Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down

Architect: William Spence



A Victorian Scots Baronial-style house dating back to around 1865, and built of Portland stone and Scrabo sandstone. In 1635, Scottish settler John Magill acquired the land from the Magennis Clan. A village developed on the edge of the River Bann, and “Magill’s Ford” eventually became Gilford.

In the 1860s, Benjamin Dickson, a partner in the Dunbar McMaster linen firm purchased the estate. He was a keen farmer and used the lands to breed Shorthorn cattle and horses. He hired Glaswegian architect William Spence to design the castle as seen today. This is Spence’s only work in Ireland. The cost to build Gilford Castle was reported to be £42,000, but Dickson never lived here. The first resident is thought to have been Percy Jocelyn McMaster, younger brother of Hugh Dunbar McMaster, proprietor of Gilford Mill, leasing the house between 1887 and 1891.

During the Second World War the castle housed camps for American, Belgian and British soldiers. In 2006 plans for a £25m golf course development on the site were turned down.