After a stressful morning on Tuesday my husband suggested that I drive to Hamilton to spend some time with the family. I had originally planned to go there on Thursday but my father’s CAT scan appointment came through and it turned out to be on the same day. On the weekend we didn’t see Gaelan, Brendan or Winnie because Gaelan came down with a stomach flu.
I was in desperate need of some ‘Winnie’ time so I quickly fed the neighbour’s cat (a story for another time), put the car seat back in the car (in case we decided to drive somewhere in Hamilton) and headed out for the highway.
Just before I reached the onramp for the QEW I remembered that I had left the dog outside and forgot to lock the front door. Back I went.
Eventually I did get to Hamilton and spent the day playing games and reading to Winnie. While I was there I noticed that the sun was trying to come out and it seemed to warm up. After much coaxing we finally convinced Winnie to go for a walk to the playground at Dundurn Castle.
We spent about an hour there and then we had a hard time convincing Winnie it was time to go home.
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.