THE HISTORY OF BELLEVUE ESTATE
View of the Hot House and Green House at Bellevue. The Seat of Peter La Touche Esqr.
On ground sweeping down to trees, with the sea beyond, a range of glasshouses of various shapes and sizes, all apparently joined together. In the foreground a group of five elegantly dressed men and women are seen to gesture towards the buildings.
A man pulling a garden roller proceeds up a path towards the nearest greenhouse. The trees are mixed conifer and deciduous. There are sailing ships on the sea. (Description of picture NUI Galway Image Record)
"THE green - houses and hot - houses now claimed our attention . From Mrs . La Touche ' s dressing - room - containing many very good portraits and paintings , designed and furnished with skilful taste and elegance , we entered a beautiful conservatory , passing on the right hand a richly ornamented little bath room . The conservatory is two hundred and sixty four feet in length , with a handsome walk in the middle . On each side of this delightful walk is planted a surprising variety of rare exotic plants , natives of Asia , Africa and America . Above the border , on the south side is a flue for warming the house in winter , the entire length of which is covered with rare plants in pots , which forms the toute ensemble , and clothes the whole with un equalled taste and neatness . Travellers agree nem . con . in saying , that it far surpasses in health and vigour any group of foreign plants to be found in Ireland . * The description of Mr . Darwin , the ingenious author of « The Botanic Garden , ” is well applied here."
John Ferrar - ATour To Bellevue in the County of Wicklow A Tour of Ancient and Modern Dublin & Its Latest Improvements - 1795
The family of Pennick, the head gardener, maintained a nursery at Bellevue into the early 1900s.
Bellevue Estate and Famous 18th Century Gardens
The Bellevue Estate was built in the 1750s by David La Touche II on a site with panoramic views of the sea, the Little and Great Sugar Loaves, Coolagad Bronze Age Hillfort and Downshill Bronze Age Hillfort and the surrounding countryside. The lands at Bellevue Demesne were originally part of the Ballydonnagh estate: Ballydonnagh was in ancient times known as Villa U Dunecha - from Bile Ui Dunchada - Sacred Tree of Dunchada. Dúnchad Mac Murchada, eponymous ancestor of the Uí Dúnchada Sept of the Ui Dúnlaing Dynasty, was King of Leinster from 727. Fera Cuala (Fercullen), the Greater Glen of the Downs area, was an important part of their territory. By 1100 the Uí Dunchada had changed their surname to Mac Giolla Mo Cholmóc. The ancient site of Rath Oinn, later Rathdown Castle, was at one time a Royal seat of power for the Ui Dunchada (although even at their time the site was already very ancient).
The site is equidistant between the two Bronze Age Hillforts of Downshill, stronghold of the King of Leinster, Uagaire, and Coolagad, stronghold of his rival Viking King Sitric Silkenbeard of Dublin – and is very possibly the location of the 1022 Battle of Delgany.
David LaTouche was a French Huguenot who set up one of the first banks in Ireland. His eldest son, David II, laid out the Demesne, designed by Peter Shanley, and between 1754 and 1756 he built the Mansion House at Bellevue at a cost of £30.000.
It was inherited by his youngest son Peter in 1785, and following the death of his wife and his remarriage to her cousin Elizabeth Vicars, he moved into the house. His elder brother David III was the first governor of Bank Of Ireland for whom Marley was built for by his father. David II purchased Harristown, Co. Kildare for his middle son John.
In 1789 Peter LaTouche built the church in Delgany. He built the Lodge at Lugalla His wife opened a school and orphanage for girls on the estate. The family were well known for their philanthropy and charitable deeds. She also opened a boys and girls school in Delgany village.
The gardens at Bellevue were famous at the time and the conservatories, started in 1785 by Peter LaTouche, were the biggest in Europe and possibly in the world. They housed exotic plants from all over the globe. They were immortalised in detailed descriptions in John Ferrar’s book ‘A view of ancient and modern Dublin, with its improvements to the year 1796. To which is added a tour to Bellevue, in the county of Wicklow, the seat of Peter La Touche’, and in poems which appeared in the Hibernian Magazine as exemplified in the following extract:
“Then come, sweet girl, no more delay,
Let me enjoy one happy day,
In this sweet spot with you.
And, if on earth there can be found
An Eden, or enchanted ground, -
You'll own it is BELLEVUE”
(From Sonnet by a Young Lady – Hibenian Magazine 1794)
"The eighteenth century saw the development of the study of botany and natural history in Ireland: first among the wealthy, who could afford to collect exotic plants and build hothouses and greenhouses to protect them; and then among the learned, who sought to collect, classify, and describe specimens for scientific purposes. The Limerick bookseller John Ferrar, writing of his visit to the estate of Peter La Touche at Bellevue, County Wicklow, in August 1795, noted with pleasure the trees, shrubs, and fruit trees collected from America, Asia, and Africa, and growing to great dimensions in the large conservatories.11 Ferrar was so impressed that he included an engraved plate showing both the hothouse and the greenhouse.12 Ferrar's was a philosophical tour, in which he situated his impres- sions within a literary framework. In his chapter on Bellevue he used quotations from Erasmus Darwin's poem "The Botanic Garden," itself based on practical scientific observation at Darwin's own garden in Lichfield. Peter La Touche spent £30,000 in planting and improving the demesne. Michael Pennick, the gardener
at Bellevue, demonstrated his enlightened spirit by ingeniously inventing methods of improving the production of flowers and fruit, and also by publishing accounts of the garden in the Hibernian Magazine."
(Reading the Enlightenment in 18th Century Ireland, Máire Kennedy, 2012)
The LaTouche family ran into financial difficulties and finally left Bellevue in 1913. The Mansion House was pulled down in the 1950’s.
The layout and features of the gardens at Bellevue are intact, but in need of restoration, and some of the current plants and trees survive from the 1750s.
Poems about Bellevue
I had seen references to poems about Bellevue and am delighted to have found these descriptive poems which illustrate the breath-taking beauty of Bellevue:
Hib. Mag. Oct. 1794.
To a Lady, on her desiring a Description ºf Bellevue Gardens. By the same.
(Hibernian-Magazine 1794 June pg 377-78)
TIS plain, dear girl, you do not know
The scene you wish my pen to shew,
But ah! how hard the task;
Yet the request was made by you,
And hard 'twou'd be to find out who
Refuses what you ask.
But ah! what language e'er can tell
The blooming charms that always dwell
On this enchanting spot:
When winter holds his icy reign,
And fills with snow each hill and plain,
His reign is here forgot.
Eternal spring blooms all the year,
Seasons may change—no change is here,
Continual bloom we find ;
Here fragrant groves, and rosy bowers,
Adorn'd with ever-blooming flowers,
Enchant both fight and mind.
Pomona does with Flora join,
To form a paradise divine,
In beauteous array;
But fruits and flowers together shew,
On Pennick both their skill bestow,
And both exert their sway.
"The melon, and the lusious pine,
The downy peach, the loaded vine,
Pomona's power declare;
Th" auricula, and blushing rose,
Jonquil, narcissus, all that blows,
Prove Flora's fav'rite care.
The painter here his skill might try,
The botanist, with curious eye,
A thousand subjećts find;
The lofty poet here might fing
The beauties of eternal spring,
In numbers’ unconfin'd.
But ah! my muse is much too weak,
Of this enchanting place to speak,
And give the praises due;
Too great for my weak pen's the task,
To give the pleasure which you ask,
In colours just and true.
Then come, my friend, no more delay,
But prove the truth of what I say,
And bless my longing sight;"
See flow'rs in bright succession rise,
Ting'd with a thousand various dies,
And breathing sweet delight.
. The glowing orange here you'll view,
! And find the paler lemon too,
. Th’ undying myrtle see :
In short, ten thousand charms you'll find,
For nature's beauty's here combin'd
In rich variety.
In walls of glass, 'midst sweetest flow'rs,
Here you may pass the peaceful hours,
Sooth'd by the softest strains ;
Sweet sounding from the plaintive flute,
Which, with thy melting voice, might suit
To lull the keenest pains.
Then come, sweet girl, no more delay,
Let me enjoy one happy day,
In this sweet spot with you.
And, if on earth there can be found
An Eden, or enchanted ground, -
You'll own it is BELLEVUE.
(Hibernian-Magazine June 1794 October pg 553-54)
Bellevue ; or the Poet's Dilemma.
(Hibernian Magazine - October 1794 pg 377-78)
HERE far adventuring and alone,
Unfriended, of the Muse unknown;
In luckless hour, and reason's spite
Condemn’d, it was my doom to write
In verse, nor guardian pow'r nor muse,
Who nought imparts, but cold excuse,
In pity of my fame’s undoing
Will check the chain, or set it going,
Abroad I stalk and look around,
If theme poetic can be found,
And roam for sentiment in vain,
O’er distant mountain, wood and plain.
Lo! to the south, where Wicklow head
Confines old Ocean to his bed!
A favouring bay his tail supplies,
And very like a whale he lies!
Shouting from forth his fretted fide,
Large draughts he borrow'd of the tide,
Which foaming as its waves assail,
Froths like the head of Wicklow ale.
Sudden, with ardour past controuling,
And eyes in a fine frenzy rolling,
I wheel my view where Bray uplifts
His chain of undulating clifts,
At once the seaman's mark I dread,
Blue o'er the main he rears his head.
So Cyclop huge, in days of yore,
Sail'd from the steep Sicilian shore.
But! here no horrors scan the land,
At Bray's more hospitable hand;
While, by his side Killiney boats
in safety ride, as brouze her goats.
What mighty chief of mountain wights,
In scorn of sublunary heights,
Lifts his proud head o'er giant crouds,
And makes a night-cap of the clouds ;
Like " Sugar-loaf," (as so 'tis callid,
And sweetish similes forestallid.).
Darker than night there frowns hard by
What seems his grave when he shall die,
Tremendous Glinn, whose honour'd bound,
Impendant o'er the dark profound,
Smiles like day's lamp, in beams that glow
To cheer life's narrow path below.
Ah! Loaf of Sugar, but for you
Sweet Powerscourt wou'd be just in view;
Thine envious base does intervene
'Tween Bellevue and that fine demesne.
Thou ancient, noble, beauteous seat,
Awhile thy scenes let me repeat;
“ Tall shady groves, expanding fields,
Each bank celestial prospects yields;
Cascades from ev'ry valley teem,
Adds beauty to the noble scene.”
Now all ye fancies, fair and new,
Compare me, if you can, Bellevue.
Parnassus ? no-since uninspind
Bards on its summit long retir'd.
How be't so tuneful here decline
A friend and fav’rite of the nine ;
Invoking ev'ry muse in vain,
Finds none to animate his strain.
The blessings of thy honour'd couch,
Sublimer joys shall heaven ensure,
The common parent of the poor.
Deep furrow'd care, disease, and pain,
And want and sorrow's weeping train,
The tear that wastes the wretch's cheek,
And plaintive woe, and anguish meek,
The tyrant grief, and felt distress,
Sharp hunger, shiv’ring nakedness,
Have lineaments in which you trace,
By sympathy, a kindred race;
And give the stamp, whereby you claim
A mother's care in nature's name.
Lo! where the hapless orphan strays,
Her hopes are vanish'd, wild her ways !
Chance guides her ; nightly ills pursue ;
Chill rains her roof, and threshold too.
Here the low kinsman's succour flies,
And poverty her child denies !
Sure as the shaft of fate, the strain
Of misery (mites thy breast amain.
With providential voice divine,
And arm out-stretch'd, thou cry'ft “ 'Tis mine,'
(Wiping by stealth the drops that start
Of the best dew the skies impart,)
“ 'Tis mine," the heaven-rais's mother cries,
While high angelic sympathies
Catch the pure impulse, bred alone
Of bright perfection all their own.
Immortals claim the wish benign,
And highest heaven resounds 'Tis mine."