…..thanks to Norm for hosting Thursday Doors
Yesterday my granddaughter and I walked over to the park at Dundurn Castle in Hamilton. She no longer calls it the dinosaur park but now uses its actual name ‘Dundurn Castle’.
On the grounds there sits a beautiful small white building with large columns at the entrance. I never gave much thought to what the building was originally used for but when I found out what it might have been potentially used for I was quite shocked. It is referred to as the Cockpit Theatre but according to Wikipedia there is no proof that it was ever used for cockfighting. It is also referred to as a folly, which I had to look up.
lack of good sense; foolishness:“an act of sheer folly”
a foolish act, idea, or practice:“the follies of youth”
synonyms: foolishness · foolhardiness · stupidity · idiocy ·
a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.
a theatrical revue, typically with glamorous female performers:“the Ziegfeld Follies”
According the Tourism Hamilton, “The Cockpit Theatre is the small Neo-classical building overlooking Burlington Bay on the edge of the escarpment estate. It was built by Sir Allan MacNab as a place to entertain business and political friends in an era two hundred years before action films and reality television. No archaeological evidence has actually shown that the building was ever used for the activity its name suggests.”
Another source gives this description of its original purpose: One of Dundurn Castle’s favored buildings it is actually a folly as its true purpose will forever remain unknown. Most locals refer to it as housing MacNab’s cockfighting ring as he was an avid participant in this long since banned sport. Local lore has underground tunnels leading from it to the main mansion.
Other uses being designated to it include:
- A Theatre
- A boathouse
- A laundry house
- An Office
- A chapel for his wife
It is confusing to me that all accounts try to deny the use of this beautiful building as a cockfighting pit yet its official name is The Cockpit Theatre and as I peaked inside there were placards describing ‘cockfighting’. In fairness to Dundurn Castle I wasn’t able to read the information through the window so maybe they were debunking the myth. Anyway it makes for an interesting story.
So very special , this post!
Thank you Anna. I’ve seen this building on numerous occasions but had no idea about the history. I used to hate history in school but now it fascinates me.
With the big gray doors as background, the pic with your green-vested granddaughter is delightful. I knew about follys, but rarely get to see any. Your photos are wonderful.
It looks very grand for a cock fighting ring. These, as far as I know, were usually fairly basic spaces, not well-designed little buildings. We have a number of follies in Scotland – usually partially built structures dreamt up by some dignitary to improve landscape or outlook with a whiff of their own importance. Many were never finished because the person ran out of money for their grandiose scheme, or died.
The building in your photograph looks to me (and I’m no expert) more like a summerhouse where the ladies would have gone on warm days to sit and do needlework or paint while gossiping about suitors and husbands. It could also have been a little theatre where family members from the castle gathered to entertain themselves by putting on plays one of them had written and others performed in. In the days before television people had to find ways to entertain themselves and amateur dramatics was very popular. Perhaps some neighbouring gentry would have been invited to watch, hence the lovely little building. Built to impress.
Just my idle thoughts.
Everything I read suggests that the actual use still remains a mystery but it is in a very beautiful setting and all those ideas that you suggested are plausible.
It looks like a wonderful spot to hang out on a nice sunny day too 🙂
Dundurn Castle has long been a place I’ve wanted to visit. I’ve heard about this outbuilding and it’s unclear history. I hope to get out there someday.
The grounds are beautiful and the Royal Botanical Gardens are just down the road. Well worth the visit.
Thanks for letting me know that … because it’s a bit of drive for me. I was a bit put off when I discovered that viewing the interior is by tour only, but I feel I must make this trip!
I have to be honest with you. I haven’t seen the inside of the castle yet and only because I’m always with my granddaughter when I’ve been there. It is, however, on my list of things to do.
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