The Jealous Wall, Westmeath, Ireland

The Jealous Wall is a unique 18th century Gothic folly, or sham ruin, standing in the grounds of Belvedere House, near Mullingar. This is one of several follies that exist on the Belvedere estate and I will cover both the house itself and the other follies in upcoming posts. The wall was built in 1760 under the direction of Robert Rochfort, 1st Earl of Belvedere. Rochfort was legendary as a cruel man known also as the ‘Wicked Earl’, in 1743 he heard (or claimed he heard) rumours that his wife had been unfaithful to him with his brother Arthur and as punishment he had her locked up in the family home at Gaulstown until he died in 1774, only then was she released by her son. Not only did Robert Rochfort punish his wife he also took Arthur to court for criminal conversation (an antiquated term for adultery) and was awarded the sum of £2,000 in damages. Arthur fled the country but after some time on the run returned to Ireland where he was incarcerated in the infamous Marshalsea debtor’s prison in Dublin, where he died.

The ‘Wicked Earl’s relationship with his other brother George was equally strained, especially after the building of George’s mansion Tudenham Park only a short distance to the south of Belvedere. Tudenham Park was one of the finest mansion houses of its day and one can only imagine how infuriated this made Robert. Not wishing to let his brother outmanoeuvre him Robert decided to block the views of Tudenham from Belvedere so no visitors would ever see the far more palatial home of George, but also to obscure George’s fine views from Tudenham Park, it was to this end the folly of the Jealous Wall was erected. The folly was designed to look like a ruined Gothic cathedral/castle and although it is not certain who designed it, Thomas Wright of Durham was credited with the designs of the other follies at Belvedere.

I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Belvedere, though the weather on the day of my visit was classic Irish horizontal rain showers, the grounds, woods and its buildings are beautiful. I will talk more about the ‘Wicked Earl’ in upcoming posts.

GPS: 53.47615, -7.36963

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