Welcome to the St Mary's History blog

Reading Jodi's books has created a new love of history in many readers. The blog content is supplied by readers and offers an electic and diverse look at anything historical. If you would like to contribute please email hazel@rushford.ltd. Thank you!

Portaferry House by Dieta Decker

When I look over the back wall of my garden, I can see straight to Portaferry House. It was owned by the Savage family,  who came over to Northern Ireland  with the Normans under John de Courcy in 1107, built a castle overlooking Strangford Lough and became the Lords of the Little Ards. The house in the picture was built in about 1750 and renovated 1820.

Portaferry House

By then they had married into the Nugent family and when Andrew Savage got an inheritance from his Great Uncle, on condition that he took the Nugent surname, he thought it a small sacrifice to make. The locals though thought it sounded pretentious and declared they 'would rather have an old savage than a new gent'. An alternative origin story for that saying is that one of Andrew's uncles, disgruntled that he had inherited nothing, declared he would rather be an old savage than a new gent and the locals picked it up. It definitely followed the Nugents around.

Sadly there are no Savages or Nugents of Portaferry House left. The two sons of the family both died in the second World War. The older brother was 23 when he died, the younger only 19. 

The house and the working part of the estate have stayed together, but some of the park and the walled fruit gardens were given up in lieu of inheritance tax.

Location and visiting information

My name is Dieta Decker, born in Bremen, Germany, but now living with my dogs in Northern Ireland, where I run a pet service.

My father introduced me to history, reading Greek and Germanic myths to me from the beginning. The first book he gave me was a biography of Frederic the Great when I was five. History and reading have been my loves ever since. 

I also enjoy Diamond painting, dogs and playing computer games.


  • Cirsten Kraft

    Very interesting, thank you very much. And best wishes from someone living in your hometown!

  • James Cowley

    My mother’s middle name was Nugent.Ellen Nugent McManus born in Glasgow in 1923. I wonder if there is any connection.

  • Marti

    Nice article. Thx!

  • Emma Quinn

    So interesting. I love the Nugent/Savage story. Thanks!

  • Jill Osmond

    Hi Dieta
    Many thanks for sharing. I had not known about the sayings.
    Best wishes

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