Quite Mad


Loughgall, County Armagh is an exceptionally handsome and well-preserved village, laid out in the 18th century by the Cope family, who were resident landlords. It comprises one long street lined on either side with residences other than at one point where an extraordinary set of gates and gate houses announce entry to the Cope estate. The family had come to this part of the country in 1611, after land here was either granted by the crown or purchased by Sir Anthony Cope of Oxfordshire. He passed the property onto one of his younger sons, also called Anthony but the latter then sold part of the estate called Drumilly to a brother, Richard Cope, so that there were two branches of the same family living adjacent to each other. Drumilly was an exceptionally long house, its facade running to 228 feet, and comprised a central, two storey-over-basement block linked to similarly scaled pavilions by lower, six-bay wings; when Maria Edgeworth visited in 1844, she thought it ‘one of the most beautiful places I think I ever saw.’ Not long afterwards, a vast conservatory with curved front was added to the entrance. In the middle of the last century, the house and land came into the ownership of the Ministry of Agriculture and Drumilly was used as a grain store, with the result that it fell into disrepair. A contents auction was held in 1960 and six years later, the building was demolished; the Belfast MP Roy Bradford described this as ‘a Philistine Act of the most heinous irresponsibility embarking on a reckless course of artistic nihilism.’ Today nothing remains of the place, meaning only Loughgall survives to represent the former presence of the Copes in the area. 





It is difficult, if not impossible, to miss the entrance to the Loughgall estate. The architect responsible is unknown, although the design has been attributed to William Murray who had spent many years working with Francis Johnston and succeeded as architect at the Board of Works. Over a period of 15 years, Murray was involved in the construction of nine district lunatic asylums and indeed, there is something a little mad about the Loughgall entrance. Set back from the road, it begins with sweeping, semi-circular stone balustrades sitting on top of polygonal rubble walling and topped with stocky urns. This is duly terminated by pairs of square piers on either side of the actual entrance, their form alternating prismatic and vermiculated bands before concluding in fleur-de-lys from which emerge fire-breathing dragons. The wrought-iron wicket and double-carriage gates are signed and dated ‘R.Marshall, Caledon 1842’ and above the latter once rose an overthrow at the centre of which hung a lantern; seemingly this was hit by a lorry in the 1960s and not restored. Beyond the gates are a pair of identical lodges, equally fanciful and looking like miniature Jacobethan mansions.  In fact, these L-shaped buildings are single-storey and only held two rooms: it didn’t help that so much space was given up to the porch supported by a tapering pier. Constructed of more polygonal rubble, the two most prominent walls have oriel windows below fanciful gables featuring a series of steps topped by finials: the apex finials originally had carved animals but these have since gone. Inside each gable can be seen the Cope quarterings and the motto ‘Equo adeste animo.’ All this work was undertaken by Arthur Cope in the years immediately prior to his death at the age of 30 in 1844, when the estate was inherited by a cousin, Robert Wright Cope Doolan, who duly changed his surname to Cope. 





From the gates, the drive runs straight, lined by limes and first dropping before rising sharply to Loughgall Manor. Designed by Dublin architect Frederick A Butler, this was built in the mid-1870s for Francis Robert Cope. After the flair of the entrance, the house is something of a disappointment, a relatively modest, two-storey Tudor revival block with only an irregular west-facing gabled facade providing any visual interest. Old photographs suggest that originally the building was not painted white but instead left with the cut stone exposed. At present, the bleak forecourt, devoid of grass or any planting, only adds to the disappointment. A gabled porch is fronted in sandstone and the hoodmoulded arch concludes in a pair of heads, one of which may represent the house’s then-owner (but if so, who is the woman, since he was unmarried at the time). The house and estate at Loughgall remained in private ownership until 1947 when it was sold by Field-Marshall Sir Gerald Templer, a descendant of the Copes. It was then bought, like Drumilly, by the Ministry of Agriculture, although in this instance the buildings were not demolished but are used as office space by a division of that body. 

There is no Frigate like a Book

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,





Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll





How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human soul.


There is no Frigate like a Book, by Emily Dickinson 
Photographs of the wonderful Armagh Robinson Library, founded by Archbishop Richard Robinson in 1771. 

Circumstances of a Peculiarly Distressing Nature


Another funerary monument in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, this one carved by Sir Francis Chantrey in 1826. It represents the Hon William Stuart, Archbishop of Armagh who died in London in 1822 at the age of 68 owing to an unfortunate error. As recounted by The Gentleman’s Magazine at the time: ‘The death of his Grace took place under circumstances of a peculiarly distressing nature, which have excited in the breast of every human being, to whose knowledge they have come, feelings of the deepest regret and commiseration. This melancholy event was unhappily occasioned by an unfortunate mistake in administering a quantity of laudanum instead of a draught. His Lordship was attended in the morning of the 6th by Sir H. Halford, who wrote a prescription for a draught which was immediately sent to the shop of Mr Jones, the apothecary, in Mount-street, in order that it might be prepared. His Lordship having expressed some impatience that the draught had not arrived, Mrs Stuart enquired of the servants if it had come; and being answered in the affirmative, she desired that it might be brought to her immediately. The man had just before received it, together with a small phial of laudanum and camphorated spirits, which he occasionally used himself as an external embrocation. Most unluckily, in the hurry of the moment, instead of giving the draught intended for the Archbishop, he accidentally substituted the bottle which contained the embrocation. The under butler instantly carried it to Mrs Stuart without examination, and that lady not having a doubt that it was the medicine which had been recommended by Sir H. Halford, poured it into a glass and gave it to her husband!- In a few minutes, however, the dreadful mistake was discovered; upon which Mrs Stuart rushed from the presence of the Archbishop into the street, with the phial in her hand, and in a state of speechless distraction. Mr Jones the apothecary having procured the usual antidote, lost not a moment in accompanying Mrs Stuart back to Hill-street where he administered to his Lordship, now almost in a state of stupor, the strongest emetics and used every means which his skill and ingenuity could suggest, to remove the poison from his stomach, all, however, without effect.’
And the moral of this unhappy episode: always check anything brought to you by the under butler…

Greatly Distinguished


The only full-length statue by French sculptor Louis-François Roubiliac can be found in Armagh Cathedral. It represents the doctor and philosopher Sir Thomas Molyneux, Physician General to the Army in Ireland and Regius Professor of Physic at Trinity College, Dublin who died in 1733. The work was commissioned some years later by his son Sir Capel Molyneux and after arriving in Ireland in 1752 was removed to the family seat, Castle Dillon, County Armagh where it was placed in a wood beneath a temporary wooden shelter, the idea being that a more permanent structure would be erected in the grounds. When this failed to materialise, the statue was moved to the vaults beneath the house. Finally when Castle Dillon was rebuilt in the early 1840s the statue was presented to Armagh Cathedral and placed in its present position. The plaque beneath the figure depicts a physician attending a bed-ridden patient, thereby emphasising Molyneux’s medical career. The inscription advises that he was ‘greatly distinguished in his generation for professional skill, varied learning and private worth.’

The Irish Aesthete Recommends II

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The Buildings of England architectural series begun by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner in 1945 is justifiably celebrated, but the Irish equivalent is less well-known most likely because this remains a work-in-progress. The first volume, devoted to North-West Ulster and written by Professor Alistair Rowan, appeared in 1979 and since then a handful more have been published. The latest to come out covers South Ulster (Counties Armagh, Cavan and Monaghan) and has been compiled by Kevin Mulligan. Like its predecessors, the book makes for fascinating reading, not least thanks to the author’s engaging prose (I like his description of Gosford Castle as ‘a great brawny pile’). One of the most important aspects of these books is that they are not unduly reverential about either the past or the present: there is a frankness of language that one rarely finds in architectural discussion. And the work comes with ample illustration, both colour and black and white. Included here are two illustrations by the author’s brother Liam Mulligan, that above showing the main staircase at Castle Leslie, County Monaghan (designed by W.H. Lynn and dating from the 1870s) and that below of the 17th century oak staircase at Richhill Castle, County Armagh. Text and pictures alike make this an essential addition to the library – together with the earlier volumes, of course.
The Buildings of Ireland: South Ulster by Kevin V Mulligan is published by Yale University Press at £35.

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