The La Touche Family (continued/1)
The Bellevue, Delgany Family
The estate at Ballydonagh comprised 300 acres, with fine views across the Glen of the Downs and towards the Irish Sea. David the Second built his favourite country retreat here between 1754 - 56, at a cost of £30,000, and called it Bellevue. Beautiful gardens were laid out with winding paths and “extras” built by David and his son, Peter, when he inherited in 1785. Among these was the Octagon, built in 1766, with a panther on springs, which could be made to jump out at unwary visitors. The house was most famous for its huge glasshouse, built between 1783 and 1793, in which many exotic plants were grown.
In 1766 Peter married Rebecca Vicars and they lived in Merrion Square, but when Rebecca died in 1786 Peter moved to Bellevue. Two years later he married Rebecca's cousin, Elizabeth Vicars.
Elizabeth was famous as a hostess as well as for her charitable works, both in Delgany and in Dublin. She opened an orphanage and school for female children in the grounds of Bellevue, and she supported the children until they were old enough to fend for themselves. She was also the Chief Guardian of the Female Orphan House on the North Circular Road, Dublin. It was she who persuaded the aged and infirm Dean Kirwan to preach at the annual Charity Sermon in St. Patrick’s Church in 1801.The unfortunate prelate feebly explained to the congregation that he was unable to preach, and promptly fainted. His listeners were so overcome that they donated over £1,100 for the orphans, a huge sum for the time.
In 1790 Peter acquired the lands of Upper and Lower Rathdown. It is on these lands that much of modern Greystones is situated. He set about improving the houses and grounds at Bellevue and Luggala, sparing no expense to make these residences the ultimate in grandeur. Luggala was his hunting lodge and holiday home set deep in the Wicklow mountains. Peter allowed Luggala to be used by “respectable strangers, wherein the spirit of Irish hospitality, beds, and attendants are provided”. This tradition of hospitality at Luggala extends to this day (September 1996) under the present owner The Hon. Garech Browne who is also President of the La Touche Legacy Association.
Peter was also known as a generous man. It was he who built the new Christ Church at Delgany in 1789, and who ordered the La Touche monument in memory of his father, sculpted by John Hickey. He was active in many charitable activities in Dublin and Wicklow and was a founder member of the Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in Ireland. When he died in 1828, at the age of ninety-five, he directed that he should be buried in the new churchyard in Delgany “with as little expense as decency will allow.” An interesting clause in his will directed that whoever should inherit Bellevue in the future would have to reside in Ireland for at least six months each year or forfeit the inheritance.
Peter had no children by either of his marriages, so his nephew, Peter of Marley inherited, but he died two years later. In 1806 he had married Charlotte Maude and the marriage produced fourteen children, of whom only one daughter, Eliza, and three sons, William Robert, Ashley and Octavius, married. His eldest son Peter David now inherited Bellevue. During the famine years it was Peter David who sat on committees in the area endeavouring to alleviate distress. It was during Peter David's time also, in 1854 - 56, that the railway came to Greystones, the station being built where the La Touche estate adjoined the Whitshed estate. With the building of Greystones, the La Touche estate became responsible for the laying out of roads, and they donated land and a sum of £1,500 towards the building of St. Patrick's Church in Greystones.
Peter David died in 1857, and his brother William Robert inherited Bellevue. He remained a director of the La Touche Bank until its closure in 1870. It was William Robert who entertained the Archbishop, Dr Richard Chenevix Trench, at Bellevue when St. Patrick's Church was consecrated in 1864. Because of various Land Acts between 1870 and 1909, the Bellevue Estate had begun to shrink considerably. In Greystones, many houses were being built on La Touche land, so a new Presbyterian Church was required. William Robert gave a free site for the new church, and laid the foundation stone in 1887. In 1867 William Robert had married Ellen Henn, but, as there were no children, his brother, Octavius, inherited in 1892, when William Robert died, aged eighty-one.
The new master of Bellevue, Octavius, was a widower with three daughters, Mary, Frances Cecilia and Charlotte, and one son, Peter. Charlotte was a keen and knowledgeable gardener and a great organiser of charitable events in the Delgany area. Her brother, Peter, inherited in 1897. He was a major in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who was called upon to fight in the Boer War in 1900, and on his return home in 1902 was given a tumultuous welcome all the way from Greystones Station to Delgany. In the same year he married Sophia Elizabeth Tottenham, but died, intestate, two years later. Bellevue was now divided between his widow and his three sisters. Frances Cecilia and her husband, Dr Archer, moved into Bellevue.
Bellevue now fell on hard times, and in 1906 a sale of family treasures was conducted by Mr James North, the Auctioneer. The family now tried taking in paying guests, and land was even sold to the Holy Faith Sisters to build a school. Dr Archer was instrumental in helping to build a Golf Club in Delgany, he being elected its first President. However, the Archers finally vacated Bellevue in 1913, and went to live in Malvern in Delgany village. The house fell into decay and was pulled down in the early l950s, and the lands were taken over by the Forestry Division of the Department of Lands.