Saturday, 12 July 2014

Downhill Mausoleum


I visited the Downhill Mausoleum recently, at Downhill demesne, County Londonderry.

Downhill House, Palace or Castle - whichever nomenclature one prefers - was built by the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Frederick Augustus [Hervey] Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry, commonly known as The Earl Bishop.

This august monument, several hundred yards from the mansion house, was erected for the Earl Bishop between 1779-83.

It was built in memory of his lordship's elder brother George, 2nd Earl of Bristol, who died a bachelor in 1775.

The 2nd Earl was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, a highly esteemed viceregal position with very considerable power, patronage and influence.

The mausoleum stands between the Lion's Gate and the Bishop's Gate.


It was based on the Tomb of the Julii.

Sir John Soane produced a sketch design (above), based on the Roman model, for the Earl Bishop, though the work was undertaken by the Irish architect Michael Shanahan.

Shanahan's version was said to be very similar to Soane's, though less elegant.

It comprised a square-planned, cross-vaulted structure, with arched openings and eight corner columns, standing on a high plinth.

The monument was crowned with a domed monopteral tempietto, contained a fine statue of the Earl Bishop's brother, in Roman dress, by John van Nost the younger.

Neither the timpietto nor the statue could withstand the storms of 1839, since when the fragments have lain around the base of the now stunted monument, awaiting restoration.


The 2nd Earl's statue is located near the Bishop's Gate in the grounds, though the head and part of the right arm are missing.

Seemingly the Earl Bishop 's intention had been to create an open-air museum, centred round the mausoleum, of reconstructed antiquities within the grounds of Downhill.

3 comments :

Anonymous said...

As such, it is not in fact a mausoleum.

Timothy Belmont said...

I wondered myself, given that nobody is interred therein.

Timothy Belmont said...

My Nuttall's describes the noun "mausoleum" thus:

A stately sepulchral monument.