DFA Staff Pick: Exploring Bendhu House

DFA Staff Pick: Exploring Bendhu House

Date: 23/10/2023 12:23

In 1964, Charlie Witherspoon went to Ballintoy to investigate an unusual building that had slowly emerged from the cliff edge over nearly 30 years. This month's staff pick shows that original first look at Bendhu House when Charlie wasn't allowed to name the builder or show too much of the house. 


Thankfully, the owners of the house invited Joe Mahon for a proper lookaround in 1996 and we can see it in full colour in this episode of Lesser Spotted Ulster.


Now we do know the story of Bendhu House and its original owner thanks to research including the book, Bendhu and its Builders by Andrew Cowser. ‘Bendhu was the creation of Newton Penprase, a remarkable Cornish artist based in Belfast,’ explains Cowser, an architecture lecturer at Queen's University.

Born in Wales, Penpase moved to Belfast in 1911 and was an accomplished painter and lecturer at the Art College. A reluctant motorist, Penprase usually persuaded his son to drive or else got the bus. He was often carrying materials that he needed for construction, including a bag of cement. 'He must have been quite a sight for the other passengers,' explained Cowden.