The Saloon, Castle Coole, County Fermanagh
Architect: James Wyatt (1790-1798)
Photograph: Edwin Smith (1960s)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
Castle Coole is one of the finest Neo-classical houses in Ireland (1790-8). Its designer, James Wyatt (1746 -1813), was one of the most fashionable, and imaginative, architects of the day. Whether Gothic or Classical, Wyatt’s designs were equally brilliant. Regarded as a genius, his talents were well employed by the first Earl of Belmore, who wanted a new house built on his estate just outside of the town of Enniskillen.
Castle Coole’s exterior lives up to its name: as it is calm, smooth and dignified. It is an updated version of Campbell’s villas. Like Stourhead, this was made up of a central block, with portico. At Castle Coole, though, long colonnaded wings have been added, and the basement storey lost. All is in icy Portland stone, transported here at great expense.
Inside it is a different story. The rooms are decorated in an eclectic manner: the ladies sewing room is in a Chinese style; the staircase Grecian. The rooms’ plans and shapes are varied. This photograph of the saloon reveals the rich effects that Wyatt and the Earl of Belmore desired. The room is round, with its shape emphasised by the many mirrors. The twelve pilasters are scagliola – imitation marble – made by Italian craftsmen. The fine plasterwork was by the English craftsman, Joseph Rose. To cap it all, much of the furniture here and throughout the house was designed by Wyatt.