Quintin Castle

One of the very few occupied Anglo-Norman castles in Ireland

Quintin Castle is situated approximately 4km east of Portaferry, Co Down. Extensively renovated about 150 years ago, Quintin is one of the very few occupied Anglo-Norman castles in Ireland.

Built by John DeCourcy in 1184, Quintin Castle was later occupied by the Savage family and their dependents, the Smiths. In 1324, Edward Bruce, invited by a discontented faction of Irishmen in Ulster, invaded the northeast and drove the Audleys, Talbots and Mandevilles from the Ards area. Constant strife with the O’Neill’s of Clandeboye left the remaining Savages very poor. When the Ards were planted in 1607, Hugh, the First Viscount Montgomery, married his daughter to Patrick Savage, who renounced his Catholic faith for Protestantism. The Ards area was brought into prosperity once again.

The Viscount’s son, Sir James Montgomery, then living at Rosemount, Greyabbey, purchased the Quintin estate from Dulaltaigh Smith, a dependent of the Savages, and his son William, made great additions to the original pile. They built a walled courtyard and a number of smaller towers, a large house adjacent to the central tower and a great kitchen to the seaward side of the castle structure. They then re-roofed the castle and added new floors, all probably before 1659.

Under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, the castle was taken over by one of his officers. When the Commonwealth fell, William Montgomery made a forcible though undisputed entry into both Rosemount and Quintin.

The Montgomerys sold Quintin to George Ross, but he never lived in the castle, allowing it to become a near ruin. Two centuries passed before the castle was renovated to its current condition.

The castle was inherited in the early nineteenth century by Elizabeth Calvert (nee Blacker), a descendent of Ross, and restored in 1850. The central keep was raised, a walkway made within the battlements, a drawing room opened into the inner gardens, and a dining room constructed on the lowest floor of the great tower. Most of the grounds were also enclosed by a massive stone wall.

The castle was then inherited by one of Calvert’s daughters, who married JCR Kerr, MP for Downpatrick. The estate passed through the hands of the Kerr family until it was sold in quick succession to General Maxwell and Colonel Kennedy.

The estate was purchased by the Burgess family, who lived in Quintin from the early 1930s until the 1950s. Skeets Martin, an auctioneer from Belfast, and his wife, then occupied the castle until the early 1970s.

On March 17, 1978, the Sheridan company bought the castle and opened it as a private old people’s home. It was then bought over by James O’Hara and his wife, who continued to run the nursing home. One famous former resident was Lady Cynthia Nugent, widow of Sir Roland Nugent, speaker at the Northern Ireland parliament. The Nugents were direct descendants of the Savages, having changed their name in previous centuries.

The apparent origin of the name ‘Quintin’ comes from St Cowey, or St Cooey as he was sometimes known, who had his monastery and church in the two fields east of the castle. A graveyard and stone coffins have been discovered here. The fields also once contained the sizeable village of Knockinelder, removed in Calvert’s time when the tenants—part-time weavers and fishermen—were rehoused in the district. One of these tenants was Rosie Glass, who gave her name to the spring well on the beach.

© 1982 Thomas Byers