Bishop's folly at risk of going downhill

 

CLIFF erosion has left Mussenden Temple, one of Ireland's bestknown follies, in danger of tumbling into the sea from its perch overlooking Downhill strand on the north Derry coast. So its owner, the National Trust, is considering a novel plan to raise it on jacks and roll it back to safety.

The 18th century temple is spectacularly located on a clifftop site overlooking Downhill and Benone strands.

It was built in 1778 by the eccentric Earl Bishop of Derry, Frederick Hervey. The National Trust, which owns the Downhill estate, has commissioned a study to decide whether to move the temple physically away from danger.

"This would be achieved by lifting the temple on a series of jacks and actually rolling it back from the cliff edge," said a National Trust spokesman. "If that was done it would obviously be a very big operation.

"But it is only one of the possibilities being examined. Another is adding to and strengthening the cliff face.

"Fifty years ago there was enough land on the seaward side of the temple to have a picnic. Now there is only a couple of feet."

The Trust has applied to the National Lottery Fund for a grant to fund the scheme.

Frederick Hervey commissioned the temple, with its Corinthian half columns, domed roof and Latin inscriptions, as a tribute to his beautiful cousin, Friedswide Mussenden, who died at the age of 22 before it was completed.

The temple is a popular tourist halt along the north coast of Derry and Antrim, with views across Lough Foyle to Co Donegal.