Friday, 1 September 2017

Belvedere House


The ancient and noble family of ROCHFORT, in old deed and writings styled De Rupe Forti, is stated to have been established in Ireland since its first conquest by the English.

Sir Richard de Rochfort was Lord of Crom and Adare, 1243; Sir Maurice Rochfort was Lord Justice of Ireland, 1302.

THOMAS ROCHFORT (c1450-1522) was Master of the Rolls in Ireland and Dean of St Patrick's, Dublin. 

JAMES "PRIME-IRON" ROCHFORT, Lieutenant-Colonel in CROMWELL's army, youngest son of James Rochfort, of Agherry, County Wicklow (9th in descent from Sir William Rochford, Lord of the Manor of Kill at the beginning of the 14th century), was executed, under a court-martial, for killing Major Turner in a duel in 1652.

By Thomasina his wife, daughter of Colonel Pigott, he left three daughters and two sons.

The youngest son,

ROBERT ROCHFORT (1652-1727), chosen Speaker of the Irish house of commons, 1695, and constituted Chief Baron of the Exchequer, 1707, wedded Hannah, daughter of William Handcock MP, of Twyford, County Westmeath, and left two sons, the elder of whom,

Chief Chamberlain of the Court of Exchequer, wedded, in 1704, Elizabeth, daughter of Henry, 3rd Earl of Drogheda, and had issue,
ROBERT, his heir;
Mary; Hannah; Elizabeth; Alice; Thomasina; Anne.
The eldest son,

ROBERT ROCHFORT (1708-74), married, in 1736, Mary, eldest daughter of Richard, 3rd Viscount Molesworth, and had issue,
GEORGE, his heir;
Robert, MP;
Mr Rochfort was elevated to the peerage, in 1737, as Baron Bellfield; and advanced to a viscountcy, in 1751, as Viscount Bellfield.

His lordship was further advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1756, as EARL OF BELVEDERE.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE, 2nd Earl (1738-1814), who married firstly, in 1775, Dorothea, second daughter of John Bloomfield, of Redwood; and secondly, in 1803,  Jane, daughter of the Rev James Mackay.

The 2nd Earl died without issue, in 1814, when the titles became extinct.

BELVEDERE HOUSE, near Mullingar, County Westmeath, is an exquisite villa of about 1740, by Richard Castle, on the shores of Lough Ennell.

It was built for Robert Rochfort, 1st Earl of Belvedere, whose original seat was Gaulston, about five miles away.

The house comprises two storeys over a basement; a long frontage; and curved end bows.

The front has a three-bay recessed centre between projecting end bays.

Belvedere itself has only a few rooms, though they are well-proportioned, with rococo ceilings on the ground floor of exceptional quality, including cherubim gazing down from the clouds.

Belvedere House passed, by inheritance, to the Marlay family; thence to Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury DSO JP DL, leader of the 1921 Mount Everest expedition.

In the period following the 2nd World War, Colonel Howard-Bury restored the house and gardens.

He never married and, on his death in 1963, the estate was inherited by Rex Beaumont, who had been Howard-Bury's friend and companion for 30 years.

Mr Beaumont sold the estate to Westmeath County Council in 1982.

Following a multi-million pound restoration the house and gardens have been opened to visitors.

Belvedere also hosts weekend music festivals and intimate garden theatre performances.

First published in June, 2013.   Belvedere arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

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