County Meath

12th November 2020

Monumental chimneypiece and plasterwork overmantel in the Entrance Hall at Bellinter

Designed for John Preston, M.P. (1700-1755) c.1750, Bellinter is Richard Castle’s last country house. It was completed after Castle’s death and it is therefore  uncertain to what extent the finished work represents  his original intentions. A bold if somewhat reticent exterior, Bellinter is a classic  example of the mid-18th century Palladian country house, comprising of a compact two-story block, linked to flanking pavilions by short single-storey arcades (converted into glazed conservatories in the early nineteenth century). As with many of Castle’s earlier works local building stone is employed, with the main block and flanking elements faced in coursed limestone. Although there are some unresolved elements in the design, the dressed masonry is finely executed in places, in particular the handling of the niches in the curved quadrant walls, which once screened the stable yard and kitchen block behind. 


Now a hotel, the interior although altered in places exhibits robust and skilful mid-eighteenth century decoration in stone, timber and plaster. The entrance hall contains a heavy doric cornice and mutules to the ceiling, with unusual plaster trophies on the walls beneath. A monumental grey stone chimneypiece survives, typical of Castle’s earlier interiors. In the first-floor bedroom lobby plasterers and joiners were evidently given free rein in the creation of uncanonical wainscoting, ceiling ornament and a diminutive Corinthian order, while the ambitious balustraded staircase, now stripped of its original colour, clearly displays the composition of elements by the combined labour of joiners and carpenters. The spiral service stair is anything but utilitarian in its remarkable construction, with self-supporting oak treads cantilevered out from the wall.

Further reading

Christine Casey & Alistair Rowan,  North Leinster, Harmondsworth, 1993

The Knight of Glin, ‘Richard Castle, architect, his biography and works’ in Bulletin of the Irish Georgian Society, 7, no. 1 (Jan – Mar 1964), 32-38.

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