The crown jewel of the emerald island is the proud, beautiful Bellamont Forest estate, a superb 18th century Palladian mansion of great importance surrounded by 1,000 acres of spring fed lakes and the ancient forests of Cavan, Ireland.
Built between 1725 and 1730 for Thomas Coote, the Lord Justice of Ireland and designed by Coote’s gifted nephew, architect Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. Pearce’s other works include the former Houses of Parliament in College Green, now The Bank of Ireland. He later became Surveyor General of Ireland, a post which he held until his death in 1733.
The house is four bays square, built over two storeys, with a basement. The house is built of red brick with ashlar facings, and has a Doric limestone portico, with pediments over the windows.
Considered one of the most perfect Palladian villa ever built in Ireland, Bellamont House is not well known, but the Coote family who built it are. The first was Sir Charles Coote who died in battle at Trim in 1642, leaving his four estates to his four sons.
His youngest son Col. Thomas Coote was granted the lands in County Cavan after the Act of Settlement in 1662 and was the founder of the town known as Cootehill.
After his death in 1671 the estate was passed to his nephew Thomas Coote, who later became a Lord Justice of the Kings Bench in Ireland and was made a Knight of the Bath ‘in testimony of his good and laudable service in suppressing tumultuous and illegal insurrection in the northern parts of Ireland’.
After Thomas married his third wife Ann Lovett in 1697, Coote became the uncle-in-law of Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, a cousin who was the most important architect in Ireland during the early 18th century. It was Pearce who built Thomas Coote’s new house in 1730, the design based on Palladio’s Villa Rotonda at Vicenza.
The name was changed to Bellamont Forest by Coote’s grandson Charles, who inherited the estate in 1764 and became the Earl of Bellamont in 1767. Lord Bellamont was a interesting figure, described by some as a man of ‘the highest refinement’, but also a ‘tyrant’, ‘madman’ and ‘a person of disgusting pomposity’.
An consumate womaniser, he sired at least six illegitimate children, with six different women, including 5 from his wife. After his death the estate passed to these descendants who became less than prosperous.
In 1874 Edward Smith, a coal tycoon bought the Bellamont house and lands for £145,000. Following his death in 1880, the estate was continuously passed down until 1984 when the Irish ‘troubles’ persuaded the family to sell the estate.
Three years later John Coote a descendant whose family immigrated to Australia in the early 1900s, visited Ireland and discovered the derelict estate was for sale and seized the chance to buy it.
After 23 years of renovation, Coote completed the work of his lifetime at his family home, Bellamont Forest. It is truly an extraordinary achievement and the house is virtually unaltered since Pearce’s day. The 11,350 square foot, two-storey main house was re-roofed, rewired and replumbed, with underfloor heating installed on the ground floor.
Double doors lead into the 25ft by 29ft ballroom, the most ornate room in the house that showcase an exceptional coffered ceiling. The main reception room is the library, whose original flat ceiling was replaced by Lord Bellamont in 1775 with a more elaborate coved one to match the dining room. This was the only major alteration made to the house in 238 years.
The stone staircase leads to the mezzanine floor, which leads to a large bedroom with ensuite bath and an office, both with vaulted ceilings.
The staircase continues up to the first-floor bedroom hall, top-lit by a decorative elliptical lantern that later became a typical feature of Irish houses.
A second staircase leads to the basement, where much of the original stone-flag flooring and vaulted brick ceiling has been restored. There’s an apartment, large orignial kitchen, dining room, media room and wine cellar.
The servants’ tunnel links the basement with the landscaped walled garden to the rear of the house.
The vast former linen hall has also been restored to provide five reception rooms and five bedrooms with bathrooms.
John Coote died in 2012 and the property sits empty and quietly awaits someone with the financial ability to make the needed repairs and love this ancient family seat once again.