Journal Volume 5 2006
Tour to Counties Cavan and Fermanagh, March 2005 (continued/1)
In the breakfast room, we saw cabinets of Chelsea china, also a large sized painting by Hugh Douglas Hamilton of the second Earl, who instructed Hamilton to portray him holding his speech against the Act of Union. Another picture was that of Dublin Bay from Phibsboro. The fragile original curtains were in a display cabinet.
We were led into the library, across the hall from the breakfast room, through double doors, i.e. one door placed behind the other without hinges, but with a pivotal bar running from top to bottom; much careful work had gone into the restoration of these doors. There is very fine late eighteenth century plaster work in this room, showing a Greek influence with laurel wreaths, etc. The fire-place is an exquisite piece of craftsmanship, the entire being cut from one piece of marble. Wyatt designed the white-painted book-cases, which are recessed in the walls. The furniture was re-covered in red velvet in 1860. The curtains are of red brocade and hang on one enormous brass pole, at least six inches in diameter, which extends over the three windows. In the library we saw portraits, paintings and photographs of the family. The last of the sisters (there were four and our guide could remember them) died in the 1960's. At that stage, there was only one servant in the house, and no heating. Derek Hill painted the family as young people. He used to stay in the big houses and his portrait of the family hangs in the library.
Upstairs there is a large hall with oval dome windows for light, and for heat, four most unusual urn-shaped stoves raised in niches. This hall is truly of magnificent design and one can imagine the lavish entertainment which took place there.
The ladies' sitting room, also called the oval room, was really half oval at one end - this portion containing three windows overlooking Lough Coole. Chinese style curtains and wall-paper were as original, having been exactly copied during restoration. There was an eighteenth century box piano in this room and a dozen Regency chairs; also an Oriental couch and two chairs.
The state bedroom with its great four-poster bed was for the King only. But no King ever came as far as Enniskillen and so this room was merely for show. Its wall-paper dates from 1812. The windows are always kept shuttered in order to preserve the red colour of the decor and curtains, which were re-done during restoration. There were Nelson chairs in this grand room and among the pictures was one from Castle Leslie in Monaghan, presumably donated or presented; of interest was the fact that the Earl of Mornington's (i.e. Garrett Wellesley's) piano was portrayed in this picture. The Earl of Mornington was, of course, the first Professor of Music in Trinity College Dublin, being appointed in 1764. His son, later to become the Duke of Wellington, had been a promising violinist before deciding on a military career.
Downstairs again, we saw the drawing room, where the silk to re-cover the chairs came from Italy. The National Trust could not afford curtains yet, so white net curtains are hanging for the moment.
The oval room, called ‘the saloon’ contains a lovely round rosewood table and some musical instruments: an early Broadwood piano, one of only three made to this design, looks like a harpsichord except that it has two pedals, one to the extreme left and the other to the extreme right of the instrument. This piano is beautifully inlaid with Wedgwood ornaments. There is also a harp, dating from 1802 and not restored. This room is that most often featured in pictures of Castle Coole.
The last note I have on Castle Coole is of a wine-cooler in the dining room. This beautiful piece of carpentry was made from a sketch by two local brothers - and made in two days.
All in all, being inside Castle Coole on a wet afternoon was time well spent, but one would need a wet week to take it all in!