The "New" Gate

The Bellevue Volunteers & the "New" Gate.

by James Joyce

       Walter Lawrence of Bellevue, Lawrencetown, was the most prominent of all the Lawrences. Apart from building his mansion he did a lot to develop his lands. Hely Dutton's Statistical Survey (1826) states that "the greater part of the demesne of Bellevue, the seat of Mr. Lawrence, which formerly did let for £3 per acre, was so completely covered with heat, that when a cow lay down, the horns could not be seen above it. The late Me. Lawrence gravelled it and took two fine crops of potatoes without manure, and laid it down with a crop of oats." He also carried out a very extensive tree planting programme, he actually planted 370 acres with many varieties of trees, for example he planted 100,000 oaks.

The New Gate He became very active in Political affairs during the time of Grattan's Parliament. The Bellevue Volunteers, which he formed to help in the efforts of the Irish Parliament to become independent, were a very active group. They operated under General de Burgh (Lord Clanricarde) who was Commander - in-Chief of the Connacht Volunteers. Birr, Co. Offaly, was a favourite meeting place for the Volunteers. Eventually Grattan's Parliament won its independence on the 16th April, 1782. On the 4th June, 1782 seventeen Corps of Volunteers met in Birr and presented a Gold Medal and an address to Grattan. The Gold Medal is in the national museum.

In 1914 the following article appeared in the local news paper.

At Bellevue House, Lisreaghan, in this county, formerly the seat of the Lawrence family, is a large picture, 8 x 12 feet, painted on the end wall of the hall, inscribed: "General de Burgh inspected  the Bellevue or Lawrencetown Volunteers at Birr, 20th September, 1784."

       Below are the names of the principal personages represented, viz: Gereral de Burgh, Adjutant Lennon, Dolly Minogue, 13th Earl of Clanricarde, Miss Olivia Neugent of Pallas, Colonel Walter Lawrence, Mary Egan, P. Bana, Major Peter Lawrence nee D'Arcy. The picure bears the signature: "T.Ryan, ino et Pinx, 1796."

Obviously Walter Lawrence looked upon the achievements of the Volunteers and Grattan's Parliament as being the highest point of his very full and active life, and to commemorate it he constructed the "New" Gate at the Western end of his Demesne. This consists of a main arch flanked on either side by a smaller arch and gate lodges. The edifice was surmounted by a pediment and two sphinx (a mythological creature half man, half lion). The pediment bears a Latin inscription which translated reads "Liberty after a long servitude was won on the 16th April 1782 by the armed sons of Hibernia, who with heroic fortitude, regained their Ancient Laws and established their Ancient Independence".

It is one of the oldest buildings in the area to have withstood the ravages of time. 1982 was the Bi-Centenary of Grattan's Parliament's Victory. I Wonder will the Bellevue gate be standing in 200 years time!

Volunteer's Arch

Volunteer's Arch

By SeŠn Rothery

The Monumental of triumphal arch has been one of the most enduring architectural symbols since it was invented by the Romans in the first century BC. From the Arch of Tiberius to the Grande Arche in Paris the celebration in stone of the passage through a portal has been revived endlessly for some two thousand years.

The monumental gate way at Lawrencetown is called the Volunteer's Arch and was built by Walter Lawrence to commemorate the Irish Volunteers of 1782. The arch was also the main entrance to the old estate of Bellevue ad the avenue to the house swept grandly up from the gates. The gates  and the avenue are now gone and the beautiful arch stands neglected and forlorn across a minor country lane. The small pedimented pavilions on either side of the screen walls house tiny two-roomed gatelodges, each with a window to the outside world set in deep recesses. The triumphal arch is decorated with medallion in the centre of the pediment and two sculptured sphinxes stare out at the countryside. 

The New Gate today....