The trains still stop at the little railway station at Helen’s Bay, one of the most fantastic railway stations in the U.K.
This splendid Victorian railway station was built to the specifications of Frederick, First Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, in 1863, for his private use, so that the trains could steam into his Walter Scott dreams, although it was available to the public as well – indeed it is probably the only station in Ireland built by a private individual .
The Marquis, a diplomat, and soldier, hired architect Benjamin Ferry to design the station for him and it was built in a baronial manner and its gables still bear the Dufferin and Ava initials and a coronet with a turret behind but unfortunately, the top part of which has been removed. There used to be a private waiting station here, which was furnished like a Victorian parlour with coroneted cushions so that the marquis and his family could comfortably wait for their train relatively unobserved. Stone steps beside the waiting room will take you down to the now-abandoned tree-lined avenue and what was known as The Dufferin Drive, two and a half miles long, which connects Clandeboye House, the seat of Dufferin and Ava, to the station and down to Grey Point, now a car park.
Much of the old carriageway can still be traced, except of course, where new roads have cut across it. But our attention must be given to the real gem about here; the wonderful Victorian railway bridge now partially covered over with climbing ivy. It is a locust swarm of barbicans and merlons and arrow slits, heraldic beasts with crumbling coats of arms with the family motto,
‘Per via Rectas’
Truly a wonder to behold. Two archways were left in the wall surrounding the courtyard of this drive, adjoining the station, intended as a stable and coach-house for Lord Dufferin’s horses., but these arches were subsequently built up, and not used for the purpose intended. The dark blue stone, evidently quarried on the Clandeboye estate, is the same as is used throughout the estate, a conspicuous example being Helen’s Tower. Whose name is derived from Helen, mother of the famous Viceroy and first Marquis of Dufferin.
This small station was built by the old Holywood and Bangor Railway company when the extension lines from Holywood to Bangor was constructed in 1865, under a special arrangement with the Marquis of Dufferin. It was then named Clandeboye Station and it continued under that name from 1865 to 1885 when at the request of the agent for the Dufferin estate, the name was changed to Helen’s Bay.
It may be added that when Helen’s Bay Station was originally built, the line was a single track, with one platform only available.
This was the only privately – owned railway station in our country and today this wonderful old neglected Victorian folly looks like something out of Disneyworld.
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