Monday, 19 July 2021

Tollymore Park Revisited

The Jocelyn Obelisk (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

THIS SACRED MONUMENT WAS PLACED

TO THEE, THOU DARLING BOY

WHOSE LOVE AND DUTY NEVER CEASED

TO GIVE THY PARENT JOY

HIS CARE RELIVED THINE INFANT WANTS

HE WATCHED THY RIPENING AGE

HOPE, THAT RELIGION ONLY GRANTS

HIS SORROW CAN ASSUAGE.

Thus eulogised Robert, 2ND EARL OF RODEN, KP, in loving memory of his second son, the Hon James Bligh Jocelyn RN, who died in 1812, ages 23, from an attack of asthma whilst serving as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy at Malta.

Slate Panel (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

A noble and elegant obelisk, erected between 1815-20, is located on top of a gentle hill in TOLLYMORE PARK, County Down.

The monument was conspicuously visible from the mansion house, where the main car park now stands.

The monument is made of Mourne granite on a stepped base, and each of the four faces contains an inscribed slate panel, one of which is inscribed in Latin; the others in the form of a poignant eulogy, names and dates.

Sweeping Lawn in front of the Site of Tollymore Park House (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

TODAY, the 18th July, 2021, I visited the superb former demesne of Tollymore Park, County Down.

I've been to Northern Ireland's finest forest park many, many times throughout my life.

It is always an absolute joy to visit this most beautiful park, probably the greatest of its kind in Northern Ireland and, doubtless, one of the loveliest in the kingdom.

Tollymore is located in the parish of Kilcoo, barony of Upper Iveagh, County Down, on the river Shimna, at the north-west base of Slieve Donard, adjacent to the south side of the village of Bryansford.

In the 19th century, Mr and Mrs Hall remarked: 
"It is situated in the midst of most sublime scenery, with the wide expanse of ocean open before it; yet nowhere do the trees grow with greater luxuriance."
"Through this delicious spot rush the assembled mountain rivulets, creating in their passage cascades of every variety of force and form."
"It is scarcely possible to imagine a scene where natural beauties and advantages have been turned to more valuable account by judgment, skill, and taste, than this which lies at the foot of Slieve Donard, and almost on the brink of the ocean."

Most of the original buildings and features in the park date from the 18th century, when the demesne was developed by the EARL OF CLANBRASSILL.

The main features include the Clanbrassill Barn, with its clock, tower, and spire, which appears ecclesiastical in style; quaint little bridges; a sort of grotto or cavern; stepping-stones, and so on.

Old Map on Tollymore Park Notice-Board (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

On a fine day the beauty and captivation of this park is unsurpassed, with the back-drop of the Mourne Mountains, forest trees, red squirrels, and wildlife.

Mr Atkinson, ca 1849, enthuses thus:-
"Entering the grand gate we proceeded by a row of excellent offices, with a tower, clock, and spire, to inspect the demesne."

"The lofty mountains of Mourne, with Slieve Donard in the rear of this grand group, and an extensive green mountain, richly planted, that skirts the lawn, bear full upon your view as you enter the grand gate."

"In your descent from this gate to the lawn, you not only pass by the spire and offices attached to the house, but also a small pleasure garden; and after moving twenty or thirty paces towards the lawn, a landscape inconceivably grand presents itself."

"In your approach through the gate, you are entertained with a grand mountain view through a defile; but here, to the majesty of the Mourne Mountains, which overhang the landscape in front, and the planted mountain of more modest altitude that bounds the lawn, with a most interesting cottage on its declivity, are added the variegated beauties of an open country, and the entire rich and picturesque group of features that characterize the home view."

"Among the former may be included, as of prime importance to the general scene, the Irish Channel on the left-hand, with Felix Magennis's famous castle on the seashore."

"Among the latter, the woody hills and glens of the demesne, extending to the right in front of the lawn; the interesting cottage on the declivity of the planted mountain; and on the lawn itself, a beautiful monument erected to the memory of the Hon James Jocelyn RN, second son of the late Earl of Roden."

"Tullamore Park is reputed to contain 1,200 Irish acres; and we may truly say that such a combination of wood and water, of lofty mountains with lowly valleys, and of all which is necessary to fill the vastness of the imagination with an impression of the grandeur and beauty of a perfect scene, we have seldom witnessed in our travels through this country."
Clearing with an Old Shed (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

I walked along one of trails, a journey lasting perhaps ninety minutes or so, and eventually reached a clearing, where there was an old shed.

Playing Marbles at the Old Saw-Mill (Image: Robert John Welch)

Could this clearing have been the site of the saw-mill? What, dear reader, do you think?

En route back to the car-park, and adjacent to the river Shimna, I passed a granite stone with an earl's coronet, surmounted by the letter "R", with the inscription "River Drive 1868."

I imagined members of the Roden family and their friends or guests riding through the sublime demesne in a barouche or jaunting-car, or even on horse-back.

Lord Roden's  River Drive, 1868 (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

I set up camp for the day within yards of the main car-park; and it was here that the great mansion house stood.

Tollymore Park House had fallen into a state of disrepair and was demolished in 1952.

In 1955 Tollymore, the first state forest to be designated a Forest Park, was opened to the general public.

It has continued to be developed for timber production, recreation, conservation and education purposes since then, and though the mansion house itself may have disappeared, most of the park’s 18th and early 19th century, gates, bridges and lodges have survived.

Still, we are very glad that the parkland and demesne remain in good condition for the enjoyment and benefit of everyone.

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