Last week I wrote about Dundurn Castle and the Cockpit Theatre in Hamilton. Both places were originally owned by Allan MacNab. Yesterday I came across Castle Doune while walking with my granddaughter. As I came to the end of Locke St. N I spied this impressive structure through the trees. Apart from the historical plaque at the front of the property and the Private Property sign it appeared to be occupied. I was fascinated by the trees on the property and a very old bust made of stone looking over the driveway that led onto the property.
When I too a photo of the bust a very attractive middle aged woman walked toward me from the back of the driveway. I asked her if it was alright to take photos of the stone head. She was more than happy to oblige me and she started to talk about the history of the sculpture. It seems that it was originally guarding the original gravesite of Sir Allan MacNab before his remains were removed and placed in another cemetery. She was pretty confident that the head was not a likeness of MacNab but some deity that she couldn’t remember the name of.
Again the history of this place is somewhat sketchy. The historical society claims that MacNab built it for his gardener but the present owner thinks that it was MacNab’s first home. Apparently, according to her, he found the place too small for his liking and he built Dundurn Castle.
I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to this charming woman. When she bought the place 10 years ago she justified living in this large home because in her words, ‘every princess deserves a castle’.
If it’s true that MacNab needed larger quarters to live in he certainly made sure that his new home met those requirements. Here are a couple of photos of Dundurn Castle.
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.
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 laundry house
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.
My granddaughter loves parks and the park surrounding the castle is one of her favourites. She calls it the dinosaur park because the climber has pictures of dinosaurs on it. She’s a great climber and loves the slides and swings. She made sure that her Papa got on a swing as well.
In the far corner of the grounds at Dundurn Castle there lies a large, old fashion garden with flowers, fruit trees and vegetables. Some of the produce is used in the kitchen at the castle and the rest is donated to the city food bank. Much of the produce is true to what was grown in the 19th century. The gardeners were very knowledgeable and wonderful to talk to. I learned a great deal.
Last Friday when we went to Dundurn Castle in Hamilton we never dreamt that the Military Museum would hold the attention of our almost two year old granddaughter.
The staff at the ticket office encouraged us to go to the museum because there were a lot of hands-on artefacts that Winnie would enjoy. We were somewhat sceptical but admission was very reasonable so I bought the tickets and we started to walk towards our destination. Unfortunately we ended up going in a circle and I went back inside to get directions again. We went right when we should have gone left.
When we got to the small museum we were greeted by a very nice young woman who reassured us that the museum was definitely hands-on. In the first room there were military costumes and hats to try on. I think the adults had more fun in this room.
The second floor definitely was a big hit with Winnie. In fact my daughter, Gaelan thought that this floor was better than the Children’s Museum (also in Hamilton). Winnie immediately went to the musical instruments and then entertained herself by emptying the cook pot of it artificial food and then filling it up again. She also enjoyed exploring the tent with her Papa.
When we had exhausted the novelty of this interesting place the rain had stopped and we headed back outside where Winnie headed for her favourite part of the park, the ‘dinosaur’ playground. More about that in a day or so.
Now that summer is coming to a close these giant sunflowers are starting to loose their seeds and bend their heads. I was lucky to see them in different locations this week. The first was at Weber’s on my way to Kashe Lake and the second at Dundurn Castle in Hamilton.