Friday, August 23, 2013

Dundurn Castle

August 2013 - Hamilton On

More photos:
Ladies' Drawing Room

 Dundurn Castle was constructed over a three-year period, and completed by 1835. Designed by a young English Architect, Robert Wetherall, Dundurn was built around the brick shell of Colonel Richard Beasley's colonial home. Designed as a fashionable Regency style villa, Dundurn (Gaelic for "strong fort") was nicknamed "Castle" by the citizens of Hamilton. The Castle, with its gardens, grounds and many unusual outbuildings, was one of the finest estates in the province.

There were 12 servants for the six family members who lived in the house. if you were under twelve years old you were not allowed int he downstairs rooms or on this staircase.

Today, Dundurn Castle has been restored to the year 1855 when MacNab was at the height of his career as a lawyer, landowner, railway magnate and Premier of the United Canadas (1854-56). Over forty rooms, above and below stairs, have been furnished to compare the life of a prominent Victorian family with that of their servants. Costumed staff guide visitors through the home, illustrating daily life from the 1850s.

Much of the information used to restore the house was learned from Sophia's diary.

The girls' rooms - where Sophia described life as "boring". Young Sophia: the Dundurn Castle Diary is a play inspired by the diary of Sophia MacNab, written in 1846 when she was 13 years old and living in the Dundurn mansion with her younger sister Mary (Minnie), her older step-sister Anne Jane, her father Sir Allan Napier MacNab, her bed-ridden mother Mary and many relatives and servants. All events are based in fact with some fictional extrapolations.

Men's bathroom

Ladies' Bathroom


For a servant girl fresh off the boat from Ireland this was a great place of employment, offering good working conditions such as heat, running water and good food.
Dundurn Castle was the first home in the province to have gas lighting and running water. The water was pumped through the house by a young boy who earned $2.00 per month for his service. The scullery maid was a young girl of 9 or 10. She washed the dishes from the entire household’s seven meals each day. Her wage — $1.30 per month.
Refined sugar was delivered in a solid, paper-wrapped cone. It was shaved or chipped off when needed. The cost of a cone of sugar - $75.00. The cost of a new home - $100.00. I posted a photo of a sugar cone taken at Campbell House in Toronto.
Sir Allan MacNab was known for treating his servants too well. Too well???

This is the servants' dining room, they ate very well and were probably healthier than their employers who ate many courses of fatty food and didn't get any exercise.

The cook demonstrates the bells, each of which has a distinctive sound. A servant had to memorize the sound associated to a room in order to respond immediately to a summons.

 Dundurn Park has its own folly, just east of the castle. Living up to its purpose, it had confused some people who had considered it a theatre, a laundry, a boat-house, an office, a chapel for Sir Allan's Roman Catholic wife, or even a cockfighting ring. Urban legend has it that many underground tunnels were built, leading from the Castle to various parts of the estate and one of the entrances was through the folly.
In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but suggesting through its appearance some other purpose, or of such extravagant appearance that it transcends the range of garden ornaments usually associated with the class of buildings to which it belongs.


  1. Hello there, I was brought up in Scotland but have never visited this Castle - must add it to the list... thinking about going to see the rellies this Xmas. Good to meet you.

  2. All so interesting photos. The Castle is so unique in its architecture, unlike ancient ones, it looks very modern but classy. Regency period? So that's around Jane Austen time?

  3. Can you imagine what it was like to live there when it was new and modern?

  4. Looks like a good, historically packed, tour. I like the meaning of Dundurn and really, for me, this looks more like a strong fort than castle. Although, I guess to some degree they were the same in use since a "castle" is a fortified residence for nobility.
    Thanks for sharing along your trip.

  5. Great photos. I especially like seeing the laundry room.

  6. Oh, that is so lovely, and they've taken such trouble to get everything just right. This week I've shifted my Snapshot on to my other blog

  7. What a great place to visit. I enjoyed going along with you.

  8. What a wonderful armchair tour! I would LOVE to go there to visit! In fact, next year, my husband and I are planning a trip to Toronto during baseball season ... perhaps we can take a side trip out Hamilton way!

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