Beaulieu House and Gardens is an ancient estate overlooking the banks of the River Boyne, just over three miles from the town of Drogheda. For over 800 years the estate has been home to just two families, the Plunketts and the Tichbournes.
Originally the site of a Norman fortress, the Plunkett family first inhabited a motte and bailey and then a Jacobean house, the remains of which can be found in the fabric of the building you see today. No one knows where Beaulieu’s name originated, but the name can be seen on a 1650 map of the area.
The buildings at Beaulieu evolved over time from tower house to Jacobean building, finally being redesigned as a grand mansion in the English style by the Tichbourne family. As such, it is a rare example of late 17th century Irish domestic architecture which has survived without alterations. With the building of the house completed mainly between 1660-66, interior decorations, paintings, wood carvings and the grand staircase were the last of the improvements to be added (in 1723).
Four acres of historic walled garden and grassy terraces is situated close by. Family letters from the period tell us that exotic fruits, such as figs and nectarines were being grown by Sir Henry Tichbourne in the 1720s, much to his delight as he boasts about them to his half brother, Lord Molesworth. The same letters describe Sir Henry’s domestic improvements and his impatience with the builders, but he is especially proud of his new staircase (manufactured in Dublin and delivered by boat before the winter of 1723).
A painter and designer named William Van Der Hagen is associated with Beaulieu. Van Der Hagen began a painting career in Ireland around 1718 painting sets at the Dublin Theatre Royal, and went on to become the founding father of Irish landscape painting. Visiting Beaulieu is an opportunity to see some of his early work painted on panel, including a city scape of Drogheda and a spectacular ceiling painting attributed to him of the goddess Aurora descending from the heavens in her chariot.
Beaulieu used to be open 5 days a week each June and also at weekends in July and August. However, it now appears to be open by appointment only.
Beaulieu House, Drogheda, Co. Louth.
Tel: 041 983 8557.
Adults €10 (guided tour of house, self-guided tour of garden); children under 16 free.