H6015 : An architectural gem: Bellamont House and its history

taken 34 years ago, near to Cootehill and Clements Town, Cavan, Ireland

An architectural gem: Bellamont House and its history
An architectural gem: Bellamont House and its history
Bellamont is “one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in Ireland”. It is at the centre of a 90 acre estate bounded by lakes and rivers, known 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. Both Bellamont and Dartrey lie in a beautiful drumlin landscape of rounded hills and lakes dotted with wooded islands. Bellamont House 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, now the Bank of Ireland, in Dublin LinkExternal link

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 of murder LinkExternal link . But 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! LinkExternal link

In 1874 the Cootes sold Bellamont Forest to the Dorman Smith family. One of them, Eric, a well-known but controversial character was a brigadier in the British Army during the 2nd World War. He was removed from his post by Winston Churchill, with whom he then continued a long legal battle over the issue. Eric, a life-long Catholic, then changed his name from Smith to O’Gowan and retired to Bellamont where he 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 it seems the Protestants got him in the end. LinkExternal link

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 his 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” LinkExternal link (Archive LinkExternal link )

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 LinkExternal link . This has led to the recent formation of the Dartrey Heritage Association LinkExternal link (Archive LinkExternal link ) 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 LinkExternal link

POSTSCRIPT – March 2010
Sad news from Cootehill: John Coote is to leave Bellamont House, built by his Irish ancestors in 1728 and on which he has expended so much care over the last 23 years. The estate is up for sale through Knight Frank (Ireland). Guide price: in excess of 10 million Euros LinkExternal link - reduced to 7.5 million Euros (June 2010) LinkExternal link (Archive LinkExternal link )

POSTSCRIPT – August 2015
John Coote died in 2012 and it took until this year for Bellamont to be purchased by John Manuel Morehart (59), an American lawyer. He is the eighth child of Jack, a well-known Californian property developer who for six years owned and ran the famous “Pacific Ocean (amusement) Park” in Santa Monica. John Manuel has a home at Costa Mesa in California, interests in Hawaii and property at Toormore on the Mizen Peninsula in West Cork, Ireland. He plans a much needed restoration programme for Bellamont which it is reported will cost €2 million and may take five years.
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright D Gore and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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H6015, 5 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
1989   (more nearby)
Sunday, 10 January, 2010
Villas   (more nearby)
Subject Location
Irish: geotagged! H 6095 1565 [10m precision]
WGS84: 54:5.1858N 7:4.1625W
Camera Location
Irish: geotagged! H 6099 1550
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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Image classification(about): Geograph
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