The earliest building in Holywood is the Priory (close to this house), which dates from about 1190, but there was little else to the village till it became a popular holiday resort for Belfast merchants in the early 19th century.
No.3 Stewart’s Place is typical of this stage of the development of the town, being one of a pair of three-storey stucco houses with rounded corners at the head of a narrow street on the seaward side of the High Street. The street is named after Hugh Stewart, the first post-master of Holywood, and the houses were probably both built about 1840 by William Lowry. Originally no.3 had smaller houses on its Stewart’s Place gable, and linked to a good terrace on High Street, but both have been demolished. It is still of importance, however, for its contribution to the setting of the Priory and contemporary houses on the other side of High Street, as well as setting off its ‘twin’ across the entry.
Typically for its early Victorian date, the house is externally plain, but has margin-paned windows and a doorcase with sidelights and fanlight. Internally however, it has generously-proportioned rooms with ornamental cornices and ceiling roses, chunky Victorian fireplaces, panel doors, and an elegant curving staircase with wreathed newel. Having lain vacant for a number of years it had been vandalised, and the Housing Executive applied for listed building consent to demolish it, but Hearth offered to buy it. Consideration was given to the possibility of converting it to flats, but this would have meant loss of the staircase, and it was decided to restore it as a single house.
Wherever possible, existing timbers were reused, but new balustrades, handrail and many replacement window shutters were required, while much of the ornamental plasterwork also had to be replaced. Structural repairs were necessary at the rear of the property, and an old three-storey return (the ground and second floors of which belonged to no.3 and the first floor to the demolished neighbour on High Street) was demolished and replaced with a single-storey one. The house was re-roofed and the stucco renewed; and the railings were extended to enclose some vacant land left after demolition of the neighbouring terrace. The present owners have extended the building along High Street.
When Hearth undertook the restoration of no.3, its neighbour at no.1 was in good condition. Sadly that was no longer the case in 2016, when no.1 suffered a serious collapse and Hearth supported local residents in campaigning to save the building. The precedent of the restoration of no.3 was an important factor, and thanks to determined action by planners no.1 has now been restored, and the pair of houses once more form a distinctive feature at the end of Holywood’s High Street.
Hearth Historic Buildings Trust
Hugh J O’Boyle, Downpatrick
Kirk McClure & Morton
Architectural Heritage Fund, NI Housing Executive, Historic Buildings Branch DoE