Fermanagh Gold Introduction
CASTLECOOLE, Enniskillen

Associated Families: LOWRY-CORRY, BELMORE

The most palatial late C18 house in Ireland, built 1790-98 by 1st Earl Belmore to the design of James Wyatt, who adapted earlier designs by Richard Johnston, and also shoed himself to be much influenced by Stuart and Revett's Antiquities of Athens, so that the house is an unusually perfect example of the late C18 Hellenism, massive and restrained; yet keeping certain Palladian features such as Venetian windows and a balustraded roof parapet; and following the traditional Palladian plan of a centre block and wings.

The centre block of 2 storeys and 9 bays, with a pedimented portico of 4 giant Ionic columns on the entrance front, and a curved central bow lined with giant fluted Ionic columns on the garden front' the wings single storey and consisting, on the entrance front, of deep colonnades of fluted Doric columns ending in small Doric pavilions, and on the garden front of 5 bay links and end pavilions with Venetian windows. The ends of the wings have central features of 4 fluted Doric columns and are as perfectly finished as the major elevations' all being of beautifully cut masonry in a pale silvery Portland stone which was brought here at great expense, being shipped to Ballyshannon, taken overland to Lough Erne, shipped to Enniskillen and taken the last 2 miles in bullock carts. It was no less expensive getting English plasterers to come here under the supervision of Joseph Rose; and it seems that the austerity of the interior plasterwork was to some degree for reasons of economy; though in fact it is entirely suited to the Grecian purity of the house.

The single-storey hall is of great depth and dramatic simplicity, its only adornments being a Doric frieze, a pair of small Doric chimneypieces by Westmacott facing each other on either side and a screen of Doric columns in porphyry scagliola at the inner end. The splendour is reserved for the oval saloon in the middle of the garden front, which is lined with grey scagliola Corinthian pilasters and has a frieze of swags and it is flanked by the drawing room and the dining room, forming a magnificent enfilade.

The library, which has its original delicately moulded bookcases, is on one side of the hall, separated from the drawing room by the staircase hall, which contains a double stone staircase of great length, leading up to a landing with a screen of yellow and brown scagliola Doric columns, The 1st floor lobby, lit by glass domes, rises into an attic storey which is not visible from the outside of the house; and is surrounded by a gallery with a colonnade probably inspired by the interiors of the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon at Paestum. 

In 1797, just before the present house was completed, the earlier house, which was small, built 1709 and with a rather heavy pediment, was burnt to the ground. The earlier family pictures and furniture were probably lost in this fire; which would explain why the house contains comparatively few portraits, making for large stretches of unrelieved wall, again very much in keeping with the Grecian simplicity. As a contrast, however, there is the sumptuous gilt Regency furniture in the saloon, introduced by 2nd Earl; and the bed, festooned with flame silk, in the state bedroom, said to have been decorated for George IV, who, however, never slept here.

The garden front of the house overlooks a lake on which there is the oldest non-migratory flock of greylag geese in the British Isles; it is said that if ever they go, the Belmores will also go. There are some wonderful trees in the par, and fine stables by Sir Richard Morrison. Castlecoole has been maintained by the Northern Ireland National Trust since 1951 and is open to the public.

Source: Burke's Guide to Country Houses: Volume I Ireland pp. 64