Mixing Greek and Chinese Regency style at Castle Coole

The Saloon at Castle Coole. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Having touched on the Regency libraries at Stourhead and Ickworth, I could not fail to show some of the Regency interiors at Castle Coole, in Co. Fermanagh.

Gilded couch supplied for the Drawing Room at castle Coole in about 1816. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The house was built by James Wyatt for Armar Lowry-Corry, 1st Earl of Belmore, between 1789 and 1797. The cost of building turned out to be so high that initially the house was only sparsely furnished.

The State Bedroom, said to have been prepared for a visit by George IV in 1821. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

But when Somerset Lowry-Corry succeeded as 2nd Earl in 1802 he set about decorating Castle Coole in lavish Regency style, using the Dublin cabinetmakers and dealers John and Nathaniel Preston.

Chinoiserie cabinet, one of a pair supplied by the Preston firm and originally used as a bookcase, in the Morning Breakfast Room. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

They supplied the massive gilt and mahogany furniture in the principal rooms, and also many of the curtains and upholstery materials.

The Bow Room, a private sitting room for the ladies of the house, decorated with chinoiserie wallpaper and chintz which was remade for the National Trust in 1979-80. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Apart from the goût grec running through much of the decoration, there is also a discernable strand of chinoiserie.

Detail of the re-woven chinoiserie chintz in the Bow Room. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Although classical decoration is predominant in the more ‘serious’ rooms, and chinoiserie was used more in the ‘feminine’ areas of the house, the division was not absolute, as the japanned bookcases in the Morning Breakfast Room show.

As it happens, the BBC is currently broadcasting historian Lucy Worsley’s amusing and informative series about the Regency.

7 Responses to “Mixing Greek and Chinese Regency style at Castle Coole”

  1. Mary Tindukasiri Says:

    So beautiful, perfection. The chinoiserie cabinet must be the best of its kind. Thank you. Mary

  2. François-Marc Chaballier Says:

    Am I imagining things, or is the picture above the fireplace in the Bow Room one of the Roman aqueduct known as the Pont du Gard, not far from Nîmes?

    Thank you for this ever fascinating and instructive blog.

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Mary, thank you. The cabinets are certainly rather splendid, combining as they do elements taken from English mid-eighteenth-century chinoiserie furniture and garden pavilions and from French-inspired neo-classicism.

    François-Marc, indeed it is the Pont du Gard, well spotted! The painting is by Nathaniel Hone the Younger (1831-1917). The room also contains engravings after Claude-Joseph Vernet’s ‘Ports of France’, and views of the Bay of Naples, weaving a kind of French-neo-classical theme in addition to the chinoiserie.

  4. François-Marc Chaballier Says:

    Thank you for your response. I shall now google Nathaniel Hone the Younger of whom, I confess, I had never hear.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    As you will have found out, he was an Irish painter influenced by Corot and the Barbizon School. There seems to be one other French scene by him at Castle Coole, showing a bay at Cassis. Although I haven’t seen the complete files on these paintings, they may have been acquired during the time of Somerset, 4th Earl of Belmore, who inherited Castle Coole in 1845 and died in 1913.

  6. columnist Says:

    The bowed shape (at the back, in profile) of the chairs placed around the round table by the window in the Bow Room is really exquisite. Do you know the maker / style?

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Columnist, they were supplied by the Preston firm in 1811, in a set of twelve. The low glass-fronted cabinets, the pier tables (with their very Regency gilded panther-headed legs) and pier glasses came from the same source.

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