DARTREY: a great Irish estate – Paradise Lost?
|Tue, 26 Jan 2010 01:47
|The following description of the Dartrey Estate near Cootehill, Co. Monaghan, Ireland, was written in 1773 by the Reverend J Burrows, visiting tutor to the Dawson family:
“A thousand acres of lake, three hundred of which flows within a few yards of the house, with hills on each side covered with the most beautiful delicious woods, bring all fairyland to one’s imagination. On the other side of the lake is a large island, wonderfully shaded on all its sides but with a bald pate of open ground on the top, giving a very pleasing and uncommon effect. Beyond that are woods that lose themselves in the clouds. People who are not used to lakes cannot conceive into what delightful forms they throw themselves, and how much the little islands, here and there interspersed, which contain one or two trees, add to their beauty”.
The Dartrey Estate, originally known as Dawson’s Grove, was established by the Dawson family in the 17th century alongside another estate, Bellamont Forest, of similar size – over a thousand acres.
The river Dromore is the boundary between the two estates. Dartrey, to the north, is bounded on its north and west side by five miles of the Cootehill-Rockcorry road (R188); For some of this distance the boundary consists of a ‘famine wall’ built in 1846. See estate map http://www.damienhouse.net/walks.html
A view of Inner Lough, one of several lakes in Dartrey, taken in 1984 at a time when the Irish national forestry company (Coillte) was using the bulk of the estate for forestry. The photo is taken not far from the site of the house by this lake where Burrows was staying. The woods far right are on Black Island where stands the Dawson Temple/Mausoleum (see later below).
The clump of beech trees on ‘Flagpole Hill’ in Dartrey Forest.
Coillte’s woodmen have continued to spare this lone clump while felling all the surrounding trees as shown here in 1989. This hill has also been referred to as McMahon’s castle, which long pre-dates the Dartrey name (the McMahon story http://www.mcmahonsofmonaghan.org/the_mcmahon_story.html )
The trees in the distance beyond and to the right of the clump are on Black Island. Dartrey also boasts of many fine old oak trees and other beeches which, thanks to Coillte and the Dartrey Heritage Association, are being preserved http://www.briansdesign.com/oaks/
The view across the Dromore river looking from the Bellamont estate to the southern hills of Dartrey, beyond which is the Inner Lough (out of sight). This photo was taken in 1989 when Coillte had felled most of the trees allowing this wide and distant view.
Compare it with the dense dark unrelenting crop of conifers which the foresters currently plant. These trees seem to march across this once famous landscape leaving little open ground now for the beasts to feed or man to see more than 50 yards. The extent of forestation is shown by the three photos below:
Left: trees all around Inner Lough taken from a temporary vantage point 30 feet above the ground (the roof of the Dawson temple/mausoleum)
Centre A logging path nearby. Among the conifers at the top of the far hill is an ancient Ringfort http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ringfort to which the tree density at present prevents access.
Right: a typical path at one of the entry points to Dartrey
The Dawsons had settled on this glorious piece of Irish lakeland countryside with its pattern of fish-filled waters, islands and drumlins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drumlins covered with fine oaks, beech, sycamore, ash, silver birch and other, mainly broadleaf, woods. In time they developed a network of paths, here and there bordered by banks of rhododendrons and other shrubs, giving access to most parts of the estate for walkers, fishermen, horse-riders, and there was even passage for horse-drawn carriages for a privileged few.
A typical path (on Black Island) suitable for carriages and bordered by rhododendrons. All came to enjoy the ‘delicious woods’ and the breath-taking views of lakes and islands (some of the small islands are ancient ‘crannogs’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crann%C3%B3g ).
Rev. Burrows described Thomas Dawson (1725-1813) who owned Dartrey at the time of his stay as “judicious and benevolent towards his neighbours, his dependents, his servants and to the poor”. They were paternalistic times when the Dawson family’s lakeside mansion was the centre of the Cootehill community and almost open-house for those who needed to raise or settle local issues. At the same time large numbers of people were needed to work on the estate which became, in every sense, an important community facility attracting visitors from far away.
After nearly three centuries the fortunes of the Dawsons of Dartrey waned, their male heirs died out and the contents of their great Gothic-style mansion, designed and built in 1846 by the Scottish architect William Burn http://www.old-print.com/mas_assets/full/E3561880057A.jpg , were auctioned in 1937. The building was demolished in 1950 and eventually the bulk of the estate was sold to Coillte for forestry.
Left: A view of the north-west bank of Inner Lough where the Dawson mansion once stood. It was above and to the left of the boathouse (in the left photo).
Right: The Dartrey Ice House This ice house, the nearby pump house and boathouse (in the left photo, currently being rebuilt) are all that is now left of the great Dartrey mansion. Background to Ice Houses http://www.london-footprints.co.uk/articehse.htm
Although not a stone of the old Dawson mansion itself remains, there are still many interesting parts of Dartrey’s built environment that can bee seen:
The Church of St John, the Evangelist, Dartrey
The Dawson family who came to the area in the 17th century has been the main benefactor of the parish ever since. It was Richard Dawson, a banker and Dublin alderman, who in 1729 built the present (Church of Ireland) church on the Dartrey estate. It was established in its own separate parish of Ematris soon after. The Dawsons added a north gallery to the church in 1769, and much later the Corry family (from Rockcorry) added a south gallery, raised on arches to avoid desecrating the burial ground beneath it. A fire caused serious damaged in 1811 leaving the church for a period without a roof. The fine west tower was built in 1840, and the sanctuary apse (centre above) in 1870. With the demolition of the Dawson mansion in 1950, and their once thriving estate turned over to forestry, St John’s appears isolated. However it shares services with St James’ church, Rockcorry some 2½ miles away, which the Dawsons built in 1855, and both churches continue well supported by the local farming community. But the view from St John’s cemetery across Inner Lough, once described as “one of the best in Ireland”, is currently obscured by conifers:
St John’s,from the south-east across the Lough. St John’s from the south-west.
The original Dartrey stables, built in 1730 - “A fine Georgian building”
…… This great Palladian-style building (now privately owned) was the original stables of the Dartrey estate. Its building in 1730, coincided with the completion of the Palladian mansion at neighbouring Bellamont Forest by the famous young Irish architect Edward Lovett Pearce (1699-1733) who introduced Palladianism to Ireland. The design of these stables has many interesting features (including the bell tower above right) strongly indicating his hand and influence at work: the building is recognised as being “of architectural importance”. Now suffering from the effects of time and neglect, this once fine Georgian building is in urgent need of restoration before it finally subsides into ruin and complete loss.
These original stables were replaced in 1846 by new stables nearby H6017 : Layout of the ‘new’ stables
Thomas Dawson’s ‘Temple’ on Black Island,
commemorating his first wife – restoration in progress during 2009
The right hand photo shows the dome and oculus completed - behind security fencing. This 30 foot high neoclassical temple housing a great sculpture was built in the 1770s by Thomas Dawson MP, the then owner of the Dartrey estate, to commemorate his first wife, Anne Fermor - picture: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2_ZstVBZSfIC&lpg=PA1&pg=PA121#v=one page&q=&f=true . She died in 1769 aged 36. He spared no expense and engaged the best architect (James Wyatt http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Wyatt ) and a famous sculptor (Joseph Wilton http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Wilton ) from London. The temple was modelled on the Pantheon in Rome and has a dome and oculus (providing interior light). http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2_ZstVBZSfIC&lpg=PA1&pg=PA123#v=one page&q=&f=true
Thomas Dawson could see his temple across the Inner Lough from his house on the opposite bank (what we wonder was the attitude of his second wife, who he married in 1770 the year after his first wife died, as she watched the building of this great memorial to her predecessor!). Their portraits and the story of their eventual departure from Dartrey during the rebellion of 1798 are at: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2_ZstVBZSfIC&lpg=PA1&pg=PA119#v=one page&q=&f=true
Over the next two centuries this unsecured mausoleum deteriorated badly. It became roofless, the statue was vandalised and, despite help from the Georgian Society, both became almost beyond recall. But in 2003 the newly formed Dartrey Heritage Association http://www.briansdesign.com/oaks/ decided to restore this once fine building and statue http://www.briansdesign.com/oaks/popnews6.html as part of a programme to reinstate important historical structures on the Dartrey estate
Dartrey’s Iron Bridge – “One of the most beautiful specimens of the built environment”
….. A sturdy bridge was needed to access the Dawson temple site on Black Island and this is what remains of the once “beautiful” metal span which was built. It is a “protected structure having a cast iron lattice work of the same import and design as that of the Eiffel Tower in Paris” which, like this bridge, was built using wrought iron metal of the highest quality – known as ‘puddle iron’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puddle_iron . Unfortunately over recent years this important estate bridge has suffered from neglect and vandalism: some of the effects of this are apparent in these photographs. Clearly no expense was spared in the construction of this interesting feature of Dartrey which deserves to be restored alongside the temple to which it gives access.
The Dawson Monument built in 1807 in memory of Richard Dawson MP
The 1790s in Ireland was a turbulent decade which culminated in the unsuccessful Irish rebellion of 1798. It made the 72 year old Thomas Dawson, who had done so much to develop Dartrey and had replaced the old family home by a new brick mansion in 1780, decide to hand over his parliamentary seat to his nephew and heir, the 34 year old Richard Dawson, and retire to London. Thomas, a longstanding Unionist politician of consumate skill and reputation, was later shocked to discover that his young nephew voted with ‘the rebels’ in support of Catholic emancipation and against the Act of Union. But Richard’s career in parliament was to last only ten years. He died aged 44 in 1807, and so ‘popular’ an MP had he become that his supporters erected this monument on the Dartrey estate in his memory. Designed by James Wyatt (the Dawson temple architect), it is “a classical style column built of ashlar limestone, a fine piece of masonry work”. The 200 year old column has recently been restored http://www.briansdesign.com/oaks/
The ‘new’ Dartrey stables built by the architect William Burn in 1846
This large building, now privately owned, is built in a semi-circle of five separate blocks facing a walled and gated courtyard (it seems more suited to housing for estate staff than as stables). It was designed by the well-known Scottish architect William Burn (1789-1870) who was, at the same time, building the Dawson’s new Gothic-style Elizabethan Revival mansion nearby, which was also completed in 1846 (but demolished in 1950) http://www.old-print.com/mas_assets/full/E3561880057A.jpg . At the time both were built, Ireland was entering the worst year of the famine, so these deserted stables, which replaced the original Georgian stables (pictured earlier), are a strong reminder of the men whose work here and on the ‘famine wall’ helped them and their families survive in those awful times http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_(Ireland) . Once the scene of so much activity of men, horses and the various carriages they drew, this historic building now looks forlorn, suffering from long term neglect and the effects of time. It is hoped that a purpose will be found for it that allows it to be restored.
With the formation a few years ago of the Dartrey Heritage Association http://www.briansdesign.com/oaks/index.html , the local Cootehill community “made a start in protecting their much neglected local heritage. Their aim is to bring the community together to promote awareness of this heritage, which includes historical structures, monuments, wildlife habitat and also the rich cultural heritage of the local people. With their designation as a charity they have been seeking funding and developing plans to advance their aims”. Several of these relate to buildings and other structures on the old Dartrey estate which have been described above. The Association has opened negotiations with Coillte over Dartrey forestry as a result of which a number of ancient oaks and other old trees have been saved from being felled. It has restored the Dawson monumental column, and the restoration of the 18th century temple and statue on Black Island is in progress. A discussion of the various natural and historical features of the Dartrey environment which are likely to attract visitors is at http://www.anglocelt.ie/news/features/articles/2009/03/11/37004-dartre y-temple-can-be-tourism-magnet
BELLAMONT HOUSE & THE COOTES OF COOTEHILL
Left: Bellamont House, Cootehill, Co. Cavan . Right: its two guardians, now replaced by Irish wolfhounds. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2_ZstVBZSfIC&lpg=PA1&pg=PA115#v=one page&q=&f=true
An architectural gem: Bellamont House and its history
Bellamont House is “one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in Ireland”. It is at the centre of a large estate bounded by lakes and rivers, known today as Bellamont Forest, which lies between the Dartrey estate to the north H6117 : Inner Lough island and the history of the Dartrey estate and the town of Cootehill, founded by the Coote family, to the south H6014 : Market Street, Cootehill, Co. Cavan. Both Bellamont and Dartrey lie in a beautiful drumlin landscape of rounded hills and lakes dotted with wooded islands. Bellamont House, then known as Cootehill, was built for Thomas Coote, an Irish judge, in 1728 by his nephew, the brilliant architect Edward Lovett Pearce (1699-1733). Pearce also built the former Houses of Parliament in Dublin, now the Bank of Ireland http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Lovett_Pearce
The Cootes are an old Irish family who settled in this area in the 17th century. Judge Thomas Coote’s grandson Charles (1738-1800) succeeded to the estate in 1766 and was made Earl of Bellamont the following year. As a local magistrate, he had taken a leading role in putting down the ‘Oakboy’ revolt of 1763, following which he was tried and acquitted for murder. It seems that he was at heart an eccentric adventurer. For all his “gallantry and high spirits” he was also variously described as “that mad man”, “disgustingly pompous” and “an inveterate womanizer”. An ardent Francophile, he insisted on making his maiden speech to a bemused Irish House of Lords in French. He had at least 16 children of whom 11 were by women other than his wife, and there was general hilarity when in a duel he received a serious bullet wound in the groin. On his death the estate passed to an illegitimate son – inevitably called Charles!
In 1874 the Cootes sold Bellamont Forest to the Dorman Smith family. One of them, Eric, a well-known but controversial character was a colonel in the British Army during the 2nd World War. He was removed from his post by Winston Churchill, with whom he continued a long legal battle over the issue. Eric then changed his name from Smith to O’Gorman and retired to Bellamont where he became a Catholic and enthusiastically took up republicanism. He is said to have sold lead from the roof of Bellamont house for the cause, and to have allowed the IRA to train on the estate. He is buried at St John’s, Dartrey, so the Protestants got him in the end. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Dorman-Smith
Unlike Dartrey, Bellamont has remained in private hands. In 1987 John Coote, an Australian descendant of the Coote family who had left Bellamont in 1874, purchased the estate. An interior designer by profession, he is well-known in London for his restoration of the old Libyan embassy which was so badly damaged by the SAS in the siege of 1984. He has now restored Bellamont House to the decorative style of the 18th century while at the same time maintaining all the comforts of modern living. This architectural gem was described in 1990 as “one of the most perfect examples in these islands of a Palladian villa” http://www.robbreportcollection.com/Coote-Cootehill . Meanwhile Bellamont Forest’s trees have been thinned out, so returning the estate to the more open parkland of an 18th century demesne and enhancing the views, which on Dartrey have at present been lost.
John Coote has been among those trying to encourage local Cootehill people to become interested in their heritage and involved in the restoration of the many historical sites and structures that are nearby, and particularly those in neighbouring Dartrey estate. This has led to the recent formation of the Dartrey Heritage Association http://www.briansdesign.com/oaks/ with several restoration projects there now underway H6116 : The Temple on Black Island - Restoration. It is hoped that such work will attract visitors to the lakes and islands of this strikingly beautiful part of Ireland
POSTSCRIPT – March 2010
The 1000 acre Bellamont Forest estate, owned by the Australian John Coote, “the jet-setting designer of classical 18th-century houses” who bought it in 1987, is up for sale this month. Guide price: in excess of 10 million Euros, through Knight Frank (Ireland), Tel: +353 (0)16623255. http://www.countrylife.co.uk/property_news/article/447324/Luxury-prope rty-in-Ireland-for-sale.html - price reduced to 7.5 million Euros (June 2010) http://william-montgomery.com/properties/bellamont.htm - John Coote died in 2012. Sale price of his estate currently 1.45 million Euros (June 2012)
Left: “Bellamont Arms” in Market Street in the town of Cootehill, Co. Cavan.
Centre: Bridge Street, the road to Monaghan
Right: The road to Cavan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cootehill
In the middle of the 17th century Thomas Coote, who had been governor of Coleraine, and his wife Frances Hill who came from Hillborough, Co. Down, became settled on a large estate immediately adjacent to a hamlet then known as Munnilly (‘the sleeve’). The Cootes combined their surnames to call their house and estate ‘Cootehill’. It was a time when linen production was developing in the region and, with the Cootes’ support and property, Munnilly expanded and was renamed Cootehill. By the end of the 17th century Cootehill town had begun attracting skilled weavers and flax spinners from other parts of Ulster.
Further development of the town’s cottage-based ‘brown’ linen industry was primarily due to the efforts of Judge Thomas Coote (1655-1741). He was the nephew of the original Thomas (above) who had died in 1671, and was the builder of a Palladian mansion on his Cootehill estate. He was an enthusiastic promoter of the linen trade throughout Ireland and succeeded in establishing Cootehill as a market town – he obtained a patent to hold markets and fairs there in 1725. Thus the town prospered and by 1800 had become the strongest linen market in Counties Cavan and Monaghan when it was attracting buyers from as far afield as Belfast, Dublin and London.
(Cootehill, 1910 picture: http://www.emerald-isle-gifts.com/vintage-irish-town-prints/cavan-vint age-photographs/cootehill---cavan---main-st.asp )
Meanwhile in 1767 the Cootehill estate had been renamed ‘Bellamont Forest’ when the owner at that time, Charles Coote (1738-1800), was made Earl of Bellamont H6015 : An architectural gem: Bellamont House and its history. But by the 1830s, growth of the large linen mills in the Lagan valley, Lisburn, and other ‘factories’ put cottage-based linen markets like Cootehill into rapid decline. Eventually the town’s linen trade had almost been replaced by the produce of dairy and tillage farming with consequent loss of incomes. The process led to some depopulation of the area, and this was later accentuated by the awful famine of the 1840s. Cootehill still has a Market Street, but its Market House and all the flax and scutch mills have long since disappeared, and there is today little evidence of the great industry which first established Cootehill as an important market town. http://linenireland.org/history/regions/cootehill.php
Left to Right: All Saints' Church of Ireland, and the Presbyterian and Methodist churches.
Cootehill is unusual for its religious diversity. It was a product of the rapid expansion of its linen market by the Cootes indiscriminately encouraging all those skilled weavers and flax spinners to come from other parts of Ireland. The little town filled with a multiplicity of Christian denominations, and by the end of the 18th century there were at least seven different houses of worship there H6014 : COOTEHILL: Linen and Religion. Early arrivals from the north-east were Presbyterians of Scottish descent H6014 : The history of the Presbyterian Church in Cootehill. Other newcomers belonged to the established Church of Ireland, to which the tolerant Coote family belonged. There were also a few Quakers, among whom was the granddaughter of William Penn of Pennsylvania: she had married Thomas Dawson of Dartrey in 1770 - pictures http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2_ZstVBZSfIC&lpg=PA1&pg=PA119#v=one page&q=&f=true . Then the Moravians and the Methodists, dissenters from the established church, each started congregations in the town H5914 : John Wesley and the Methodist Church of Cootehill. They were followed by two other break-away groups, one from the Presbyterian and one from the Methodist church. Finally, at the close of the 18th century, the Catholics, the largest denomination in the countryside, were permitted to build a house of worship here. See current Church of Ireland (1819) and Catholic (1930) churches: http://two.archiseek.com/archives/6340
Burrows, Reverend J, “Diaries” for July 1773 (PRONI)
Cassidy, Patrick MA, “Church, Chapel and Meeting House – Religious diversity in Cootehill in the 18th century” (Monograph c.2000 )
Coote, Charles. “A Genuine Account of the Progress of Charles Coote Esq. in Pursuing and Defeating the Oakboys” (Dublin 1763)
Coote, Sir Charles, “Statistical Survey of the County of Monaghan” (Dublin 1801)
Dartrey Estate Papers - D. 3053 (PRONI)
Dartrey Heritage Association – Black Island Temple Restoration
Donnelly, James, “Hearts of Oak, Hearts of Steel” in Studia Hibernica Vol. 21 (1981)
Gore, David, “Soldiers, Saints and Scallywags” (2009), pp. 110-125
Livingstone, Peadar, “The Monaghan Story” (Clogher Historical Society, Enniskillen 1980)
Malins, Edward, & Glin, The Knight of, “Lost Demesnes - Irish Landscape Gardening 1660-1845” (London 1976)
Shirley, EP, “The History of the County of Monaghan” (1879)[i][/i]