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April 24, 2019
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Through The Past Darkly


After our unearthing of Lucy Mary Dann’s early 1900s diary of life in Delgany, it was a treat to be pointed in the direction of one Lady Arbella Denny, and her grand August 1770 day out here.

First charted by local historian and GG regular Rosemary Raughter back in 2013, the excursion to Wicklow took place on August 3rd that year, and it involved a visit to the La Touche family at Bellevue House, as well as Colonel Pomeroy’s stately Altidore.

Reading Lady Arbella’s description of her Delgany visit – delighting in such curiousities as the mechanical panther installed at the Octagon to frighten unsuspecting visitors – reminds you just how alive and kicking the La Touche family’s 300-acre estate once was.

You can explore the history of Bellevue House right here. In the meantime, over to Lady Arbella, travelling on the day with her two nieces, Miss Katherine Fitzmaurice and Lady Shelburne, plus the latter’s five-year-old son, John, and, leading the way, Mr and Mrs John La Touche…

Leaving Blackrock at ten o’clock in the morning, the party set out to travel the sixteen miles to Altidore [below], which ‘belongs to Colonel Pomeroy, and is one of the most admired situations one sees in this country.’ Dr Pococke, visiting Altidore twenty years before, described it as commanding ‘a most delightful view of the rich country below and of the sea‘ and ‘well shelter’d by the eminence above it.’

A castellated house built on the site of a medieval castle, it was surrounded by a garden, which ‘rises with three or four terraces one over the other, and to the north west are meadows and fields all well planted.’

Afterwards, Lady Shelburne and her party, having been invited to dine by John La Touche’s father, the wealthy banker David La Touche [above], travelled the short distance to Bellevue, the country retreat which he had built some years earlier at a cost of £30,000. Their route took them ‘by the higher road winding up to the top of the mountain almost insensibly.’

Arriving at Bellevue, they found ‘a neat cool house commanding a near prospect of the sea‘, and David La Touche a welcoming host, eager to show them his extensive pleasure grounds, which included novelties such as the Octagon, a summer house, built in 1766, in which was installed a mechanical panther ready to spring out and frighten the unwary.

Guided by Mr La Touche, the visitors walked ‘thro’ beautiful hay fields, by the side of which he has made a plantation, to a rock in which he has dug caverns for seats where one enjoys all the beauty of land and water. From hence we proceeded to a very different scene, that of very romantic mountains. Upon the top of one of them is a small room, where we dined, and found ourselves on the summit of a precipice looking down into the glen we had before passed thro’, with great beds of wood below us, and on the opposite bank the little silent stream in the valley below glittering with the reflection of the sun.

‘They told us we were more than half a mile perpendicular from the road. We did not leave it till the shadows of the evening enlarged every object, and the moon tip’d with silver every mountain’s head.’

Nice. You can read Rosemary Raughter’s full piece here, and check out our history of Bellevue House here, and our history of The Octagon with Shay Clear here. You can also check out our history chats with Rosemary here.

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