Just Perfection


The entrance front of Castle Coole, County Fermanagh. The house was designed by James Wyatt, who took over from Richard Johnston (brother of the better-known Francis Johnston), and built between 1789 and 1798 at a cost of £57,000 for Armar Lowry-Corry, first Earl of Belmore. Wyatt never visited the site, but sent over a number of craftsmen from London to supervise the building work, not least the neo-classical exteriors clad in Portland stone (the garden façade is below). Ownership of the property was transferred to the National Trust in 1951.

Into Recess

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One of the two niches on either side of a door in the oval saloon at Castle Coole, County Fermanagh. Designed 1789-96 by James Wyatt for the first Earl of Belmore the building’s heating system has been discussed here before (see It’s All in the Detail, August 10th 2013). This is one of a pair of cast-iron stoves topped with urns made to a design by Wyatt in order to provide warmth for the room which, owing to its shape and the disposition of doors and windows, does not have a fireplace. It is flanked by two of the dozen scagliola pilasters by the Italian craftsman Domenico Bartoli with plaster decoration inside the upper section of the recess being made by on-site by workmen sent over from England.

It’s All in the Detail

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One of four large urns placed in niches on the first-floor inner landing at Castle Coole, County Fermanagh; two of them (including that shown here) double as stoves, Irish winters being pretty chilly. Although this does not feature, certain architectural details of Castle Coole and a number of other houses in this country are discussed in a recent essay by Calder Loth, Senior Architectural Historian for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Member of the Institute of Classical Classical Architecture & Art‘s Advisory Council. Calder was one of the group of ICAA members who toured Ireland last May and who I had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions. You can find his very informative and beautifully-illustrated piece at: http://blog.classicist.org/?p=6620

That’s Coole

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Two details of the plasterwork in the dining room at Castle Coole, County Fermanagh. Constructed between 1789 and 1796 for Armar Lowry-Corry, first Earl of Belmore the house is considered to be architect James Wyatt’s Neoclassical masterpiece. For the decoration he used his usual team of London craftsmen including stuccadore James Rose who sent five of his regular plasterers to do the job. John Martin Robinson in his recently published monograph on Wyatt quotes a contemporary report that the workers were unhappy in Fermanagh, finding it ‘an unhealthy place, that most of them are ill and there is not lodging for them but in damp rooms.’ None of this discontent is reflected in the graceful plasterwork, with each room given a distinctive frieze pattern.

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P.S. Apologies to anyone who was trying to nominate me for the Irish Blog Awards (see Number One from last Thursday, July 25th) and had problems because I gave the wrong email address: this has now been corrected , so please forgive my incompetence and try again. And thanks to all who have already nominated me.