Mussenden Temple is a circular stone building situated on the edge of cliffs overlooking Downhill Strand, within the Downhill Demesne grounds near Castlerock. The National Trust manages the Temple, which is open to the public from sunrise to dark every year. Built as a library in 1785, the temple's walls were formerly lined with books.
Mussenden Temple was erected for Frideswide, the Bishop of Derry's niece, near Downhill Demesne in County Derry/Londonderry.
The Mussenden Temple was built to be a library for Frideswide Bruce, the niece of the 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, whom the Bishop appears to have adored.
Some claim that Earl and Frideswide were too close; when the Bishop clashed with his long-suffering wife, he would frequently see his 'cher cousin'.
The Freeman's Journal implied that the Earl Bishop's connection with his niece was not quite right without identifying them, and the mud stuck, despite the fact that this was afterwards rejected in print.
Frideswide married Daniel Mussenden, a wealthy and old London banker, and the Earl Bishop erected the magnificent Mussenden Temple as a present to her. This was planned to be a spot where Frideswide might retreat when she came to visit filled with books.
Frideswide untimely death
The temple was completed in 1783, but it is reported that Frideswide's health, which had always been fragile, was affected by the controversy. Although there is no proof, it is possible that it had a role in her early death. When she died in 1785, the Temple, which was supposed to be her shelter, became her memorial.
Featured Photograph Copyright Joseph Cullen
National Trust, Downhill House, Coleraine, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom