It’s the Editor’s night off, the intern’s gone awol and Zelda’s asleep. Dinner at Fischer’s, Marylebone’s finest Austrian, calls, dropping the schnitzels and strudels for the vegetarian gröstl in the esteemed company of Astrid Bray newly appointed General Manager of Hyde Park Residence. So it’s the ideal time for a mega filler quote from our illustrious predecessor, the Lavender’s Blue of his day, Rev Francis Orpen Morris scribing in his voluminous volumes County Seats of Great Britain and Ireland 1850 or so. James Wyatt, never one to shy away from plundering his own portfolio, must have bet that the owners of Heaton Park in Great Britain and Castle Coole in Ireland weren’t likely to compare notes. Or elevations, to be precise. Spot the difference competition.
‘This mansion is situated in the midst of the beautiful demesne of the same name. It commands an extensive woodland view to the southwest, with a fine mountain background, while the back, or more correctly the northwest front, looks down upon a picturesque lake (Lough Coole) of some 40 acres of water. A flock of grey lag wild geese, which settled here, it is said, several generations ago, have become domesticated on the lake, never straying far from its shores. There are small four small wooded islands near the borders of the lough, which are possibly ancient Irish cranoges. The demesne contains two other lakes: one, Lough Yoan, of considerable size; the other, Breandrum Lake, much smaller.
The timber at Castle Coole is a noticeable feature in the landscape. There is a row of beech trees, some of which are about 125 feet in height, supposed to have been planted early in the last century; and another not so high, but containing some magnificent specimens, planted probably about 1750.
The present mansion house was erected towards the close of the last century, by the first Lord Belmore, from the plans of the celebrated James Wyatt, at a cost of towards £60,000. It is faced with Portland stone. It contains five handsome Reception Rooms. The Billiard Room to the right, and the Library to the left of the front Hall are 36 or 37 feet long, by 24 feet wide, and 18 feet high. The Drawing Room corresponds with the Library, and the Dining Room with the Billiard Room, on the back or northwest side of the house, and are divided by a very handsome oval Saloon. The Library and Drawing Room are divided by the inner Hall, containing a stone staircase with two branches. Above the Saloon is a large bow windowed sitting room, commanding an extensive and beautiful view, including Lough Coole; this room is divided from the state bedroom to the front by a lobby, lighted by skylights, and surrounded by a gallery from which open the bedrooms, etc, on the second storey.
The mouldings of some of the cornices and ceilings at Castle Coole are very elaborate, and were executed by Mr Joseph Rose of London, it is believed from the designs of Mr Wyatt. In the front Hall are two fine scagliola pillars, and two pilasters, by Mr Bartoli. There are some more in the inner Hall. The estate of Castle Coole came into the family of Lord Belmore by marriage. The residence of the Lowry family was previously at Ahenis, near Caledon, County Tyrone.
The original “Patentee”, or grantee, of the manor of Coole was Captain Roger Atkinson, temp. James I. This gentleman, who was for a time MP for Fermanagh, sold the property circa 1641. In 1655 it was resold to John Corry, of Belfast, who dying between it is supposed, 1680 and 1689, was succeeded by his son, James Corry, subsequently MP for Fermanagh and Colonel of the Militia.
The original house having been burnt by order of the Governor of Enniskillen in 1689, to prevent its being occupied by the Duke of Berwick’s army, a new house was erected about 1709, not far from the present mansion, the broad oak avenue leading up to which now forms an important feature of one of the approaches to the present house. This house was accidentally burnt down about the time the present one was completed.
Colonel Corry dying at an advanced aged in 1718, was succeeded by his son, Colonel John Corry, some time MP for Enniskillen, and subsequently for Fermanagh. This gentleman dying in 1726, aged 60, was succeeded by his son, Leslie Corry, then a minor, who died in 1741, and bequeathed this portion of his property to Margetson Armar, his cousin, and the husband of his third sister, Mary. Colonel Armar dying in 1773, left the estate to his wife for her life, and after her death to her second sister, Sarah. Mrs Armar dying the following year, was succeeded by her sister, Sarah Lowry Corry, widow of Galbraith Lowry, MP for Tyrone, who had assumed the name of Corry on succeeding, some years previously, to another portion of the Corry estates in the county of Longford. Mrs Lowry Corry died in 1779, and was succeeded at Castle Coole by her son, Armar Lowry Corry, MP for Tyrone, created, 1781, Baron Belmore, and advanced to the dignity of a Viscount in 1789, and of an Earl in 1797. Lord Belmore died in 1802, and was succeeded by his son, Somerset, second Earl, previously MP for Tyrone, and subsequently Governor of Jamaica and a representative Peer. He died in 1841, and was succeeded by his son, Armar, third Earl, some time MP for Fermanagh, who, dying in 1845, was succeeded by his son, Somerset Richard, present and 4th Earl, late Governor of New South Wales.’