SPLENDOUR, GAIETY – THE MARTOCK HOUSE STORY (March 16/21)

“On the crest of a hill, about three miles south of Windsor, there stands the remains of a mansion… not so long ago the scene of many glamorous occasions when it was the home of Col. E. K. S. Butler.”

This quote comes from a report on colonial architecture in the Maritimes by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, published in 1933. The mansion, noted by the Institute to be “weather-scarred and shabby” at the time, is known today by most people as the Martock House (named, says the report, for the village in Somersetshire, England, where the Butler family home used to be).

In effect, the Institutes report is a detailed examination of Martock House and its structure. But besides doing exactly that (even the masonry and shingles are described) commentary on the early history of the site supports local folklore that it has Acadian connections.

Investigating the site further, reads the report, one finds that a false front on the mansion “not only hides an earlier house but it rests upon the site of an Acadian fortification” The hill where Martock House stands (Brow Hill) was “therefore very probably a strategic position (for the French). Although there are no records of a skirmish having taken place, an entrenched camp and fort is said to have existed on Brow Hill, and in the vicinity rusty bayonets and cannon balls have been found.”

The site came into the hands of the Butler family circa 1760 when a piece of Acadian land, which included Brow Hill, was granted to John Butler, a prominent Halifax merchant. Butler built a summer cottage at the foot of Brow Hill, a cottage later moved to where his heirs eventually built a large home, stables, and a coach house. A map dated 1800 indicates the location of these building, establishing they were erected before this date either by John Butler or his nephew John Dight Butler.

It was John Dight’s son, Edward Kent Strathlorne Butler (a Colonel in the Royal Sussex Regiment) who transformed Martock House into what the Institute called a “palatial residence containing all the requisites for entertainment and grandeur that were fashionable at the time.” After John Dight Butler’s death in 1854, the Colonel “lived on in great splendour and gaiety” until his death in 1871.

Attesting to the “splendour” of Martock House, in his book on Windsor history (A Journey in Time) L. S. Loomer notes that in the late 19th century it contained two one-storey wings: “At left was the study of Col. Edward Kent Strathlorne Butler… and at the right a billiard room that ran the full length of the front section of the house.”

Further attesting to the grandeur and the social life of Martock House, an article published in the Chronicle Herald in the 1950s described it as an estate once noted for its well-kept beauty and the “site of a succession of gay social events of generous hospitality.” This all changed when, after the death of Edward K. S. Butler, the property came into the possession of a relative, Edward Butler Sweet.

“Today the estate is operated as a farm,” the Chronicle Herald article stated, summing up the 1950s status of Martock House. “It no longer boasts the extensive gardens and driveways bordered by hawthorn hedge but is still a dominating landmark.” In the 1950s the residence was turned into apartments and was known locally as the Sweet House.

Today, Google Martock House and you’ll learn the former glory of the now privately owned Martock House has been restored.

Martock House as it appeared circa 1860

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