What do you get when you mix together a middle-aged, wildly eccentric Bishop Earl, a touch of Italy, immense wealth and a beautiful young woman? A scandal fit for 18th century Londonderry and an enchanting folly that still exists today.
Perched precipitously on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean Mussenden Temple is modeled after the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli Italy. Built in the mid 1780s by Anglican Bishop of Derry Frederick Augustus Hervey 4th Earl of Bristol as a retreat for his young cousin Fridiswide Mussenden it became a library and her memorial when she died unexpectedly. Gossip and scandal about an affair between Fridiswide and the Earl Bishop may have impacted her fragile health leading to her death at age twenty-two.
Today the serene temple sits 120-feet above the beach in Downhill Demesne. Cliff walks, the ruins of a great mansion, gardens and a forest provide a delightful natural environment for visitors.
- Photo of Fridiswide Bruce, Mrs. Daniel Mussenden: National Gallery
- Photo and bio of the Bishop Earl: Frederick Hervey
- Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne: Discover Northern Ireland
- Virtual Visit Northern Ireland: Interactive Panoramic Image of Mussenden Temple
© 2012 Michele Erdvig