North of the main house are the ruins of a large fortified house from the era of the Ulster Plantation. Thought to have been built around 1620, it was an L shaped house with a projecting stair turret corbeled out in the Scottish style. A flanker tower with pistol loops defends the building. It is known as Derrywoone Castle
The stable block at Baronscourt. Extended in 1890 in the Scottish Baronial Style stands in contrast to the classical architecture of the main house and nearby Agents House (which can be seen on this drawing poking through the trees). As explained in its listed building evaluation: ‘The late nineteenth-century remodelling makes a strong visual statement on entry from what is now the only functional approach to the demesne, from the east.’
4km southwest of Newtonstewart is a secluded wooded valley with two lakes which contains the Baronscourt Estate. At the centre lies what has been described as ‘one of the grandest neo-classical houses in Ireland’ (Rowan p130). Built and modified from1779 onwards, it is a building of great presence and character which commands its surroundings.
Harry Avery’s Castle sits in a commanding position above the town of Newtonstewart and the Rover Strule.
Harry Avery’s Castle above the town was built in the 14th century and named after Henry Aimbreath O'Neill. Only two D shaped walls remain and the flat earthwork that formed the centre of the castle. The remaining walls formed a gate house and the rest of the site was defended by a thick curtain wall, The castle was occupied until it was destroyed in 1609. It is interesting architecturally as an example of a sophisticated castle built by the native Irish though clearly influenced by the techniques of the Normans. A similar example is Elagh Castle, built near Derry for the O'Donnells , where again only part of the gate house survives.
The impressive gable of Newtonstewart castle is located at the other end of the main street. This was constructed between 1618 and 1622 as part of the construction of the town following the Ulster Plantation. The building was burned in the 1641 rebellion and dismantled on the orders of King James in 1689 on his retreat from the Siege of Derry. Reminiscent of Galgorm Castle (which has Dutch Gables) and with a chimney very reminiscent of the house attached to Rathmullan Abbey, it was a large house typical of the period with Tudor hood mouldings over windows and clearly a roof of three parts (triple pile) spanning the whole.
Newtonstewart further east at the confluence of the Strule and the Owenkillew rivers, is another elegant village. Protected as a Conservation Area, its main street is flanked with historic buildings, some of very fine detail. This rises to focus on St Eugene’s Church at the top of the hill. The church dates from 1724 and is a rebuilding of a predecessor erected on the site in 1622. The town’s name refers to Sir William Stewart of Newtown Stewart in Galloway, Scotland, who acquired the town in 1629 and renamed it after his family and birthplace.
Camus Bridge to the south of Sion Mills is a dramatic structure over the River Mourne. Built to carry the Great Northern Railway in the early 1900’s. It has been disused since the line closed in 1965. It stands now as a very visible reminder of the former railway. Between here and Omagh are two more bridges of the same type, each spanning a wide stretch of river.
The Flax Spinner, a sculpture Sion Mills main street recalling the work of the mill that created the village. Artist: Eamonn O'Doherty
Herdman’s Mill, Sion Mills. Down from the main street along the riverside is the mill. First constructed in 1835 the main part of the complex dates from 1853. Badly damaged by fire in 2011 it is still an important building and an important landmark in the surrounding countryside
Marks of Time
Sketches of buildings in the North West and further afield with a little information about their history.