Eyecatchers


Gothic Arch

The Landscape of Ireland was covered in ruins in the eighteenth century. The stark remains of destroyed monasteries, castles, tower housed, early churches, round towers and the huge legacy of megalithic monuments and pre-historic forts were to be seen everywhere. In these circumstances to build a deliberate ruin would seem to be a pointless exercise, but the very presence of real ruins acted as a spur to the romantic spirit. Everybody wanted a ruin to grace the landscape of the estate and these eye-catchers, as they were called, helped to create agreeable scenic compositions. The estate of Bellevue, near the village of Lawrencetown, is long vanished and this Gothic ruin stands incongruously in a field near a little country road. With flying buttresses, pointed windows and pinnacles, it is a piece of theatre scenery: the front wall of a building which never existed! The largest Gothic sham ruin in Ireland is at Belvedere near Mullingar and is known as the "Jealous Wall" since it was reputedly built by Lord Belvedere to blot out the view of his brother's house.

Gothic Cottage

This Folly is a contradiction since a two-storey house is concealed behind the Gothic extravaganza which constitutes the gable wall of the dwelling. Ambiguity and contradiction were employed enthusiastically by garden and landscape designers, as demonstrated by the wealth of miniature temples, sham castles, toy forts and hermits' caves built for the great gardens of Europe since the Renaissance. Follies, like the grotesque assembly of bits of mediaeval architecture as illustrated here, were also popular in this game of illusion. The cottage, on the old estate of Bellevue, was placed at right angles to the road so that the folly on the gable end would disguise the dwelling, until revealed to the visitor's amazement when viewed from the side. The flying buttresses jut out at an angle and are far too big for the little building but are part of the pleasure and fun which follies were intended to provide. The building has suffered on recent years with the loss of some of the pinnacles, the cross and the stepped gables, and also form being painted over in white wash. The drawing shows the original folly with the missing elements as depicted in old photographs. Bellevue estate was also called Lisreaghan and was famous for its great woodlands of ilexes and cedars of Lebanon, but little remains today and the old house with its Doric portico has long vanished.