79 Rennies Mill Road

Winterholme, Newfoundland’s largest and most elegant mansion, was built by a peculiar gentleman named Sir Marmaduke Winter. His purpose? Well, to build the largest and most elegant mansion in Newfoundland, of course.

Upon completion in 1907, it had ballooned from its original estimated cost of $68,00 to $120,000. That’s $2.6 million bones in today’s terms.

A prosperous merchant, Marmaduke, who was born in 1857 in Lamaline, was known as two different people, depending on who you asked.

Ask someone he worked with at T&M Winter, the prosperous provision firm he founded with his brother, and they might say he was surly and short-tempered, chomping a cigar like it was lunch. But ask family friend Dr. Nigel Rusted and he would tell you about the time in 1935 when he took ill and was greeted by Marmaduke in the hospital with a 75-year-old bottle of Brandy. The brandy must have done something good, for Rusted lived to share some of it with Marmaduke’s grandson Gordon, when he became Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland in 1974.

Marmaduke took great pride in his home and its many features, making sure all guests removed their footwear before stepping on the Turkish rugs before the men retired to the billiards room (filled with stuffed exotic animals) for drinks which regularly exceeded 100 proof.

The live-in servants were confined to strict schedules, sometimes working from 6 a.m. to midnight, and were only allowed breaks two half-days a week with every second weekend off. And a weekend off in those days consisted of getting off on Saturday night and returning to work Sunday night.

As harsh as that may seem, some of the Winters’ former employees say that their working conditions were top notch. Stories of the Winters’ warmth towards their servants aren’t hard to fine. The Winters apparently provided a silk robe and plenty of time off for a young maid who came down with the mumps, and sometimes even allowed their chauffeur to take the maids for Sunday drives.

In 1936, during the final days of Marmaduke’s life, the circus was prevented from performing in Bannerman Park out of respect and consideration for this local icon. Construction on Monkstown Road was also halted for the entire month he was ill.

Marmaduke may be long gone but his palatial legacy lives on in the care of the Cook family, who have converted Winterholme into a spa and B&B.

— Ross Mair
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