Palladian villa at centre of dispute

 

Although advertised for sale at a significantly reduced price of €1.45 million, one of Ireland’s most architecturally important houses is at the centre of a dispute between its owners and Cavan County Council.

The council has recently issued an enforcement order to the owners and occupiers of Bellamont Forest, Cootehill, Co Cavan, insisting on the return to the building of a group of marble busts removed as part of an “unauthorised development”.

Citing section 154 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, the council asks the proprietors to cease the removal of any features from Bellamont, to submit a proposal for the return of the busts already taken away and to return those items.

Bellamont, once described as “one of the most perfect examples in the British Isles of a Palladian villa”, stands in 1,000 acres and figured some years ago in the 1991 divorce action between the late owner John Coote and his wife Andrea (now an Australian MP).

Estate agents Knight Frank say that the house has suffered some damage in recent years and will need renovation. Anne Marie Curley, heritage officer for Cavan County Council, confirmed that enforcement notices had been sent also to representatives of the late John Coote.

Built in the 1720s to a design by Edward Lovett Pearce, Bellamont Forest was bought in 1987 by John Coote, an Australian interior designer of international repute and a very distant relation of the Coote family of Cootehill.

A specialist in the restoration of classical buildings, he restored and refurnished Bellamont, but put it up for sale in 2010 at a guide price of €7.5 million. He died last January, and since then concern has been mounting about the condition of Bellamont, which is for sale on the instructions of trustees for the estate.

The Irish Georgian Society alerted Cavan County Council to the removal of the busts, which had been set high in niches along the walls of the main hall and which the society regards as integral to Lovett Pearce’s original design for the house. It is the society’s belief that they constitute ‘fixtures and fittings’ and are therefore permanent.

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