Grey Abbey House

The central portion of the house was built in 1762 by William Montgomery, whose portrait hangs in the dining room, depicting a solemn-looking man holding what is believed to be the architect’s invoice !

 

In 1769 James Boswell was visiting the ruins of the Abbey and met William Montgomery’s eldest son, also called William, walking with his dogs and his gun; he invited Boswell to visit “the excellent house of Mr. Montgomery’s own planning”. Boswell also commented on the fine views overlooking Strangford Lough.



The Entrance Front


  Gothick dining room

William died while serving in the army in America, and his brother, Hugh became the heir. The Gothic windows of the drawing room on the garden side of the house were added in 1793 when Hugh married the Hon. Emilia Ward, daughter of the first Viscount Bangor who built Castle Ward (now a National Trust property on the other side of Strangford Lough, which is half Palladian and half Gothic in design, as a result of a husband and wife who chose to live in different sides of the house and in different architectural styles)

 

The unusual cantilevered dividing staircase, pictured right, in the main hall dates from 1790 and is one of very few in Ireland.

 

 

 


One of their grandchildren, Hugh, married Lady Charlotte Herbert, daughter of the second Earl of Powis, and a great-granddaughter of Clive of India. She was an accomplished watercolour artist, and a pupil of Peter de Wint. Many of her paintings hang in the bedrooms on the first floor.
Lady Charlotte not only added the top attic story to the house but also built the present parish church on estate land beside the abbey ruins.

Hugh and Charlotte’s eldest son, William, married Alberta, daughter of Queen Victoria’s private secretary, Sir Henry Ponsonby.


 

 


 

The stair case hall

Grey Abbey ruins viewed from the House

William was succeeded by his brother, Robert. Both were Major Generals and neither had any issue. Their brother, George, lived in China for many years, serving as Commissioner of Chinese Maritime Customs under Sir Robert Hart. Some of the ceremonial robes bestowed on him by the Empress have been handed down in the family. The estate was then inherited by his son Hugh, who came to live at Grey Abbey after the Second World War, during which time the Electricity Board occupied the house. His eldest son, William, is the present owner.