Sitting on the shore of Lough Ennell near Mullingar in County Westmeath you will find an example of an Irish country house, now in the care of the local County Council. It was built in 1740 as a hunting lodge for Robert Rochfort, 1st Earl of Belvedere by architect Richard Castle, one of Ireland’s foremost Palladian architects.
Belvedere House, although not very large, is architecturally significant because of its Diocletian windows and dramatic nineteenth-century terracing. When Robert Rochfort decided to use Belvedere as his principal residence he employed Barthelemij Cramillion, the French Stuccadore, to execute the Rococo plasterwork ceilings which are among the most exquisite in the country (Wikipedia).
The landscaped demesne of 160 acres boasts the largest and most spectacular folly in Ireland, called the The Jealous Wall. It was built by Robert Rochfort to block off the view of his estranged brother’s house nearby. There is also a Victorian walled garden and many hectares of forest. The house has been fully restored and the grounds are well maintained, attracting some 160,000 visitors annually.
On arrival at the car park and on the walk down towards the courtyard café, I noticed a recent addition to the landscape, donated by the Defence Forces. A 25pdr Field Gun from 4th Field Artillery Regiment, which used to be based in Mullingar. As the highest decorated regiment in the Defence Forces, the officers, NCOs, gunners and their families served the community of Mullingar and the people of Ireland at home and overseas from 17th February 1948 until 28th March 2012 when Columb Barracks closed. On 30th November 2012 the 4th Field Artillery Regiment were disbanded and became the 2 BDE Artillery Regiment (information on plaque).
Following the second world war Charles Howard-Bury, a soldier and mountaineer, restored the house and gardens. He never married and on his death in 1963 the estate was inherited by the actor Rex Beaumont. Rex had been Howard-Bury’s friend and companion for 30 years and he sold the estate to Westmeath County Council in 1982. The contents were auctioned by Christie’s in 1980. Following a multi-million pound restoration the house and gardens are now open to visitors.