Wimont House, owned by Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon who in 1956 gifted the house and 140 acres of land to the city of Belfast. Lady Dixon requested that it be used as a hospital, convalescent home or an old peoples home, and that the lands be used as a public park. She also stipulated that she live out her days in the house.
In 1964 Lady Dixon sadly passed away and the house was opened as an old peoples home. It was used as such until 1992 until it closed down.
From 1992 - 2013 the house was then used for occasional events by the council and was also hosted wedding receptions. It's not been used since.
I met with Andrew Dixon in 2019 to discuss Wilmont house and what he thought regarding how the house stands today.
The Dixon family watch on in horror to see the house rapidly failing. They fear it will suffer the same fate as Cairndhu house in Larne. Cairndhu (pictured above) was also owned by Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon. They too gifted this to the people of Larne. It was abandoned in the late 1980's after being used as a convalescence home. It has changed hands several times with property developers and there are now plans to turn it into a multi million £ retirement village. On recent visits though the house is barely standing and I fear it will have collapsed before the project begins.
The Belfast Telegraph did an article in 2019 (with my images) highlighting the neglect of Wilmont house and asked the council for comment. “We’re currently preparing an invitation for expressions of interest to go to the market to seek a suitably qualified developer for the restoration and regeneration of Wilmont House, to bring it into a new use. As part of this, we’re pursuing efforts to get in touch and engage with the beneficiaries of the will of Lady Dixon.”
I believe unfortunately the Dixon's were not contacted by the council and no work to the house has started. From my 2019 visit I can see even more decay with parts of the roof and guttering now collapsing.
The house has so much potential and could be used for a range of community projects for the people of Belfast and the surrounding area.
There still remains the original wall gardens, with ornate ponds and beautiful walkways. If you've never been I really recommend it.
On the outside of the walled garden there are headstones to the Dixons dogs. Clearly they loved their animals.
"Pinty" Died September 1958 - Dear Little Dog and Devoted Companion of Lady Dixon
"In Memory of Spark" An Irish Terrier "He was at one time the property of the Dear Son and Brothers who died in action in South Africa. Afterwards he was the care of all the family. He died by a railway accident aged 10 years. He was loved, is mourned and will be remembered. Brave, Faithful, Wise, Gentle and Affectionate. 1905
"Dandy Died April 1952 Faithful and Devoted follower of Sir Thomas Dixon"
A picture of Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon (image courtesy of Lisburn.com)
Cairndhu house started my photographic journey with the love of all these houses, and I feel this also connects me with Wilmont House. Let's make a difference, get the wheels turning and get the house back to life and preferably back with the Dixon family.
Save our heritage, let's not lose another one of our grand houses.