The Earl of Belvedere
By Denis O’Neill

A collection of poems and history about The Rochfort Family Of Gaulstown, Rochfortbridge

Written and compiled by Denis O’Neill, Beechwood Lodge, Gaulstown, Rochfortbridge,

further information or authentication available by E-Mailing

The Background to the Rochfort Family.

The first mention of the Rochfort family was in the year 1243, when a family of French nobility named “de Rupe-Forti“settled in Ireland. The family name was hyphenated at that time as it was the result of a co-joining of two wealthy French houses, the house of de Rupe (now Roche) and the house of Forti (now Ford or Forde). The area around Avignon in France appears to be where the family name "de Rupi" originated though other sources place it further north. Avignon is not confirmed but the most likely origin of the Roche or "de Rupe" branch...little is known of the "Forti" family .
An Intresting detail is the Irish version of the townland wherein they settled now called Gaulstown or in Irish "Baile na nGall" translates as "town of the Galls". Perhaps Gaul is the seat of the "de Rupi-Forte" family
The new family coat of arms shows clearly this union, with elements from both family arms merged to form a new family name,
the name "de ROCHFORT"

The first recorded names to bear the "de Rochfort" surname were Sir Richard de Rochfort and Sir John de Rochfort, who were Lords of Crom and Adare in or about 1243. In heraldic records we see the coat of arms of all three families. After the partition of the County Meath in the late sixteenth century the County of Westmeath was formed. Grants for the confiscation of land are well documented, notable names that were issued grants in this area include Pakenham, Cooke, Handcock, Middleton, Rochfort, Swift and Featherston. All of these names are in some way connected to the Gaulstown saga and contribute to the history of Gaulstown, long before the village of Rochfortbridge existed.

The next mention of the Rochfort family in history was Sir John Rochfort, Lord of Crom, who was living in the year 1269, as was Henry Rochfort, who in the year 1300, surrendered to the King of England, the manors of Maynan, Rathcoffey, and Belgrene, in the County Kildare. Sir Maurice Rochfort was Lord Justice of Ireland in 1302
(disputed as John Logan is stated as Lord justice from 18th october 1295 but with no end date and Roger de Mortimer 1st Earl of March is credited as Lord chief justice from 1285 - 1330, perhaps John Logan as Lord Justice was subordinante to Roger de Mortimer and passed his seat in 1302 to Sir Maurice Rochfort)

The new family coat of arms shows clearly this union, with elements from both family arms merged to form a new family name,
the name "de ROCHFORT"
and The new family coat of arms shows clearly this union, with elements from both family arms merged to form a new family name,
the name "de ROCHFORT"
in 1309 Sir Mills Rochfort was living in Kildare and had issue three sons, Mills, William and Walter.

William the second son of Sir Mills was knighted to the manor of Kill. He had two sons, Edmund, his heir, and Gerlad. Gerlad was summoned as Baron to the parliament that was held in Dublin in the year 1339. Gerlad died (reported to have contracted the plague) in 1349.

Edmund was the father of John, Lord of Tristledelan. John married Margy Berford and had two sons, John and Edmund, both living in or about the year 1409. John the eldest son was the first of the Rochfort clan to settle in “Kilbryde” in the year 1415. He married Genet Evers by whom they had issue, one son and one daughter. Thomas, their son, married Elizabeth D’Arcy.
Robert, the eldest son of Thomas and Elizabeth became his heir and successor of Kilbryde. He received a discharge in 1463 for the payment of rent at Brownstown Castle.

Robert Rochfort married Jane St. John, by whom they had issue a son, Christopher, from whom continued the family at Gaulstown, Kilbryde. In the year 1651,
Lt. Col. Prime Iron Rochfort, challenged Major Turner, a fellow officer to a duel which was staged in the grounds of Gaulstown House. Afterwards, it was discovered that the charge in Major Turner’s pistol was tampered with and Lt. Col. Rochfort was accused of his murder. Lt. Col. Rochfort was found guilty and executed in May 1651, just days before the birth of his son Robert.

During this turbulent era in Irish history, Lt. Col. Rochforts widow fled Gaulstown to the safer surroundings of the pale, where she and her family remained until her son Robert renovated the old house and re-occupied the ancient family home.
Robert and his new wife, Lady Hannah Handcock, restored the grounds and turned Gaulstown House into one of the finest houses in the County.
In 1707 Robert was appointed Baron of the exchequer by Queen Anne, this meant many long and lonely months working in London and only returning to his beloved Gaulstown during periods of leave.
Robert retired his position as MP in the early 1720s and lived out his years in the company of his wife, children and grand children. In 1726, Robert commissioned the building of a chapel at Gaulstown but sadly never saw its completion. Robert died in 1727, leaving in his will among other things £200 for the completion of Christ Church chapel at Gaulstown, £10 for the poor of the parish and £100 for the children residing at Gaulstown House. At this time Robert’s wife, his son George, together with his wife Lady Elizabeth Moore, daughter of the Earl of Drogheda, with their thirteen children, Robert’s youngest son, his wife and children and perhaps more of Robert’s siblings and family, all lived in the big house.

George inherited his fathers position as baron of the exchequer, leaving his wife and mother to care for his family, while he too spent long months in England. George died suddenly on the 8th July 1730, just three years after his father, pre deceasing his mother and wife, passing his seat in parliament to his eldest son Robert.

Robert Rochfort 1st Earl of Belvedere

At the age of twenty three and a single man, Robert was now the MP for Westmeath and had major plans to climb the ladder of success. Robert would have known from an early age that all the Gaulstown estate would one day be his, if he were alive today I think the sudden deaths in his family, clearing the way for his future, would be questioned, for example:

1730, the death of his father and transfer of power to him at age twenty three.
1731, as MP for Westmeath married Elizabeth Tenison.
1732, the death of his first wife Elizabeth Tenison, diagnosed as smallpox.
1733, created Lord Belfield by King George II.
1734, met with Mary Molesworth the daughter of Viscount Molesworth.
1734, the death of his grandmother.
1736, married Mary Molesworth much to the disapproval of his mother.
1736, at age 50 the death of his mother.
1737, 1st Baron Belfield.
1737, saw the birth of his first child, a girl called Jane, later to become Countess of Lanesborough, Robert did not return to Gaulstown.
1749, Privy Counsellor (P.C.) [Ireland] on 12th December 1749.
1751, Viscount Belfield on 5th October 1751.
1757, 1st Earl of Belvedere 29th November 1756 inaugurated spring 1757.

However, in 1738 his first son was born. The celebrations went on for weeks. King George II was godfather by proxy to the child that was to be named George after his grandfather or most likely the king himself.
Three more sons were to follow George Augustus. In 1740 Richard was born, in 1743 Robert, then in 1744 Arthur was born.
The trouble then began. Robert’s brother Arthur, who lived in Belfield house, was rightly or wrongly accused of adultery, and said to be the father of “Bobby Bán”. Robert charged his pistol and proceeded to settle the matter the old fashioned way. After a brief confrontation Arthur, bleeding heavily, fled to England never to be seen again.

Robert then confronted his wife who claimed that both parties were innocent. Mary, under suspicion, pleaded for mercy to her father Viscount Molesworth, who, under pain of embarrassment, disowned Mary as an illegitimate child and whereupon conviction, he agreed she should be transported to the west Indies as a vagabond.

The trial went ahead and Arthur in his absence was charged with adultery and fined £2,000. Mary was also found guilty even though many say the trial was a farce and testimony was tainted. Mary was spared transportation and handed over to her husband to “do with as he wished”. Mary was locked in a room in Gaulstown House only to be released for brief periods and not allowed to converse with the staff or even her children, having to apply to Robert for permission to walk the grounds.

Mary would be granted such permission after the route was declared and a footman employed to travel the route ahead, whilst ringing a bell and calling out obscenities about her. After fifteen years, Mary, with the help of a coachman, escaped the boundaries of her confines and travelled to Dublin, where she had secretly arranged a meeting with Arthur. The couple had planned to flee Ireland and sail to France where they would live the rest of their lives, as husband and wife. Mary thought the plan was working but unknown to her, all the secret letters to Arthur were intercepted by the housekeeper at Gaulstown, Catherine Coyne, who had passed them on to Robert.

Robert was to let the couple meet and have Arthur arrested. Mary, on hearing of Arthur’s arrest before she had time to meet him, fled to her father, he, once again disowned her and arranged for her to be returned to Gaulstown. While Robert was involved with the arrest of Arthur, Mary and the coachman returned to Westmeath under escort. They convinced the strange guard that Tudenham house was Gaulstown House.

Mary was now in the safe hands of her brother-in-law George Rochfort. George and Robert were enemies almost since birth, but on confrontation by the all-powerful Robert, George reluctantly handed her back to her husband on the condition that the coachman is exonerated of all charges. Mary was incarcerated once again in Gaulstown House where she would spend the following years walking the corridors and talking only to herself and the portraits on the walls. Meanwhile Arthur was locked up in the debtors’ jail in Dublin for non payment of the £2,000 fine; there he would remain until his death.

Gaulstown House was now a prison. Unkempt and dreary; it was seldom visited; only a few groundsmen were employed to watch over the house and its occupant. Mary was refused leave to exit the house and was confined to her bedroom and the gallery room. Robert now returned to Ireland to his new home at Lough Ennell, Belvedere House. In the spring of 1757 Robert was created 1st Earl of Belvedere with much celebration. Everybody thought that this would be the end of Mary’s imprisonment as she was still his wife and now the Countess of Belvedere.

Robert did not succumb to the wishes of the gentry and Mary remained a prisoner. As Robert had more enemies than friends and the hatred among the family was well known. It came as no surprise that when, in 1773, George was visited by Sir James Caldwell, sheriff of Fermanagh, who wrote in his account of his visit that Tudenham was the finest house in the district, although Tudenham was dwarfed by Gaulstown and lacked much of the splendour that Gaulstown had. Robert was inconsolably jealous and commissioned the renowned architect Barradette, with the assistance of the equally renowned stone mason Thomas Wright of Durham, to build what Robert was to claim to visitors as the “original house”, though built as a ruin it still stands today and earned the title of “The Jealous Wall”.

Roberts’ death in 1774 has many different versions, one being that a boat from across the lake came ashore at Belvedere House in the dead of night and the occupants of the boat murdered Robert. Others say that while on a moonlit walk in the grounds of Belvedere House, he was either attacked by wild dogs or fell and struck his head on a rock and bled to death. Whatever story is true it was the ending of the reign of a tyrant. On hearing the news of her husbands’ death from her son George, who had come to free her, Mary did not show any remorse and instructed her son to destroy all that belonged to him, even Gaulstown House. Robert was laid to rest in the family crypt at Christ Church, Gaulstown, on the 19th November 1774.

Mary, now aged 54, looked haggard and old. Despite his best intentions, George, now the 2nd Earl of Belvedere could not convince his mother to stay in Gaulstown. George demolished Gaulstown House and built a smaller house in the grounds of the old one. Mary, after a brief stay with her daughter Jane, set sail for France, where it is said she became a nun and lived the rest of her life as a hermit. This fact is disputed but Mary is buried in a convent graveyard in France.

Mary’s family:

Grandfather: Molesworth, Robert, Viscount Molesworth 1st

Born: 1656 Acceded: 16th July 1716. Died: 22nd May 1725

Mother: Bysse, Judith. Grandmother Coote, Letitia, Hon. Father: Molesworth, Richard, Viscount Molesworth 3rd Born 1656 Acceded: 1726 Died: 12th Oct 1758

Uncles Molesworth, John, Viscount Molesworth 2nd Molesworth, William, Capt., MP
Molesworth, Edward, Major
Molesworth, Hamilton Walter
Molesworth, Coote, M.D., b. 1697
Molesworth, Bysse, MP

Aunts Molesworth, Mary
Molesworth, Charlotte Amelia
Molesworth, Letitia

Mother Lucas, Jane Sister 1: Molesworth, Letitia

Sister 2: Molesworth, Amelia Step mother 7th Feb 1743 Usher, Mary Step sisters: Molesworth, Melosina
Molesworth, Mary
Molesworth, Henrietta
Molesworth, Louisa
Molesworth, Elizabeth
Step brother: Molesworth, Richard Nassau, Viscount Molesworth 4th, b. 4 NOV 1748

Mary Rochfort 1st Countess of Belvedere was the second wife of Robert Rochfort and mother of George Rochfort 2nd Earl of Belvedere. Mary can be linked directly to the present Queen of England and in her own right deserves a full page but for now I will just post the link and let you figure out how many of the present day Royal Family she is related to.

George Augustus Rochfort,

2nd Earl of Belvedere.

George was the first Worshipful Master of the Mullingar Lodge of Masons in December 1765. He also formed the first Volunteer Corps in the County at Mullingar in 1777. George restored once again the finest house in the County at Gaulstown, George had botanists employed to plant the bog land with exotic plants and formed three artificial lakes linked by a canal throughout the estate. He walled in a portion of the estate and had the finest herd of fallow deer therein. This area is still known today as “the Park”. Shortly after the death of his first wife, George married Lady Jane Belvedere and moved into Belvedere House. In 1784 George sold Gaulstown to Sir John Browne M.P. 1st Lord Kilmaine. George died without issue in 1814 thus ending the title Earl of Belvedere. The estate was divided between his wife Lady Belvedere, and his sister Jane, Countess of Lanesborough. Jane Countess of Lanesborough died in 1828. The estate passed to her grandson Lord Brinsley 4th Earl of Lanesborough. With Gaulstown House now under new management, its new owner Lord Kilmaine was now the landlord for much of the area around Gaulstown. The years to follow were trouble free until the famine struck, although not harshly in this area, it still had its effect. Sir John Cavendish Browne, 3rd Lord Kilmaine, chaired a meeting of the landlords in the barony that was attended by gentry and peasantry alike. Work was provided in the area to give some relief. This George Augustus Rochfort, 2nd Earl of Belvedere together with grain imported by Lady Cooper of Dunboden House, and the construction of a wall around Dunboden Park, the straightening of the road to Rochfortbridge and the re- routing of the Derry river, all made life easier during the famine in this area. In the O.S. land survey of 1844, we see that the main road from Rochfortbridge to Mullingar takes the route along the Dalystown road, turning at “Lambs Crossroads”, to Kilbride House and then through Gaybrook into Mullingar. This was a major undertaking of work and may have contributed in a large way to the saving of lives of the hungry in the greater Rochfortbridge area.

The Facts about George.

George Rochfort, 2nd Earl of Belvedere was the son of Robert Rochfort, 1st Earl of Belvedere and Hon. Mary Molesworth. He was born on 12th October 1738. He married, firstly, Dorothea Bloomfield, daughter of John Bloomfield and Jane Jocelyn, on 20th August 1775. He married, secondly, Jane Mackay, daughter of Reverend James Mackay, on 10th November 1803. He died on 13th May 1814 aged 75, at Great Denmark Street, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland, without issue.
He was styled as Viscount Belfield between 1756 and 1774. He held the office of M.P. for Philipstown between 1758 and 1761. He held the office of M.P. for County Westmeath between 1761 and 1774. He held the office of Sheriff of County Westmeath in 1762. He held the office of a Governor of County Westmeath between 1772 and 1814. He held the office of Grand Master of the Freemasons [Ireland] between 1774 and 1776. He succeeded to the title of 2nd Earl of Belvedere, of Co. Westmeath [I., 1756] on 13th November 1774. He succeeded to the title of 2nd Viscount Belfield, of Co. Westmeath [I., 1751] on 13th November 1774. He succeeded to the title of 2nd Baron Belfield, of Co. Westmeath [I., 1738] on 13th November 1774. On 7th June 1776 he obtained a pension of £800 per year for his and his father's services. On his death, his three peerages became extinct.

Poetry By Denis O’Neill

The first poem “Arthur’s Dream” is the thoughts that Arthur Rochfort had for Mary Molesworth while he sat alone in prison cell. “Plea for freedom” is the plea from Mary to be free from the confines of her room. “To France my love” was a thought Mary had, she wanted to leave Robert and live in safety though unknown in France. “Mary’s Prayer” accounts for the thoughts Mary had when she heard of the death of Robert. “Arthur the Barons young brother” is the gossip that led to Roberts actions. “The Earl of Belvedere” is an account of the Gaulstown saga as told by a storyteller . “The galloping Earl” should be read to the beat of a horse galloping while “the death of Robert” is an account of the Earls lonely and suspicious death at the lake shore in Belvedere House

Arthur’s Dream

Though parted by walls of stone,
I know for us to join is just a dream.
In prison cell alone,
I dream ‘till crows come home.
Alas ‘tis but another lonely dream.

Should I hath life again
Beginning when our loving hearts entwined
‘Twould then my Queen be, then.
That moment we had when,
I ever will my soul and heart remind.

Laws of King deny
For us in life a couple ever be.
This prison is where I
Will live until I die,
And dream of life eternal spent with thee.

When this prison falls
Stone by stone around me like a tomb.
And when the Lord he calls
With joy from hallowed halls
To place me in another mothers’ womb.

That I may live new life,
For life I’m living now is but a dream.
Then in that different life
I’d take you for my wife
And live together like a King and Queen

But dawn it breaks once more
This prison still surrounds me like a mist
A day of toil and chore
Until the day is o’er
Then dream of that first moment when we kissed

God give me strength I need
I beg of thee this love if mine abstain
Dispel me from my greed
Commandments I must heed
But loyal friends forever shall remain

Goodbye my precious Queen
One kiss within this mortal world we share
The rest is but a dream
And parted we’ll remain
Until we reunite in heavens care.

By Denis O’Neill

Plea for freedom

Wild and free, I long to be, not cooped up in this house so cold.
Waltz and dine and taste the wine, not talking to some paintings old.
Hold and kiss, is what I miss, I am a gentle human being.
Winters snow or moons full glow, not through a window, I miss seeing.

All in vain I bare this pain, we were good friends, but lovers not
By God above I swear I love thee e’en though thou hast sealed my lot.
Please forgive this sin I live, release me from this wretched place.
With God above and all my love, I swear I rid thee of this disgrace.

All alone this pain I own, for three decades the price I paid
One fleeting chance of old romance shattered by your loyal maid
Why so cruel this house you rule why keep me here the past to see
If thou hast heart then let me part, my days I’ll end in praise of thee.

By Denis O’Neill

To France my love

My Arthur dear ‘tis love that’s placed this child within my womb
Your son my love inside me grows ‘twill place me in my tomb.
For seven months ‘tis been since I have lay by Roberts side
And five or less times moons I’ve missed, your child it grows inside.

We must abandon kin and kind, let love be all our wealth
Come sail with me to France my love, beneath a cloak of stealth.
A noble son and heir we’ll raise and happy we shall dwell
As man and wife we’ll live our life and no one there we’ll tell.

My secret love ‘tis you I crave, lets flee this wretched place
Come take a chance, let’s sail to France where no one us can trace.
We must go soon for in one moon the child within will grow.
If we go now we’ll take a vow that none shall ever know.

By Denis O’Neill

Mary’s Prayer

A bell tolls,
As footmen cry “behold un-clean, un-clean”.
Shameful strolls.
For thirty years no friendly soul I’ve seen.
For one kiss,
A lifetime locked within these palace walls.
Things I miss
As I wander through the lonely hollow halls.
A solemn vow
Till death we part was what we both declared.
Abandoned now,
Though still alive no bed in years we’ve shared.
Rest in peace
While you look down and see the pain I bore.
Now hell lease
That you may cry my pain forever more
Why Lord,
This shameful life was given unto me
Forgive Lord
And I will end my days in praise of thee.

By Denis O’Neill

Arthur the Barons young brother
(typical "come-all-ya" type ballad)
Come listen to me ‘tis the truth I will say
A row it is stirring in Gaulstown today
The Baron came home after three months away
And found that his wife loves his brother
Young Bobby ‘s the spit of his father for sure
But Bob has an ailment no doctor can cure
The Baron has declared his own wife a whore
And Bobby belongs to his brother
The Lady herself has been locked in her room
It looks like the tall ship to India soon
The Baron wants justice, her life he will ruin
Then ruin the life of his brother
The Baron won’t rest till his brother is dead
And for his misfortunes the Baron will be paid
They say that a price has been put on the head
Of Arthur the Barons young brother
Denis O’Neill

The Earl of Belvedere

As I roved out through Gaulstown bog,
I stopped to rest upon a log.
And light my dúgín for a smoke,
and ponder on a different folk.

A Baron who lived just o’er the way
in stately home, with gardens gay.
A finer lad no lass could meet,
then Tenisons daughter became sweet.

Bellfield wed, but woe betide
his Lady, she a barren bride.
A year went by and still no heir,
So off to London she did repair.

Just days went by “she’s dead” said he,
“From the chains of wedded bliss I’m free”.
Then up to Dublin town did ride
to find himself another bride

Then there she was upon the stage
and she just fourteen years of age,
His heart was won could love no other
but she the actress for her mother.

Her father chief of all in arms
was smitten by his grace and charms,
And he of rank, a noble peer,
would wish them wed within the year.

But Molesworths daughter Mary fair
would have to wait another year
Then off to Gaulstown like a Queen,
Was married by the poet Dean.

The Lilliputian a sermon gave
to join young Mary with the Knave.
The wedding sparked the Dean to prose,
Behold the words the pastor chose.

“Beneath an oak in stormy weather,
I joined this rogue and wench together,
And only he who rules the thunder,
can pull this rogue and wench asunder”

Robert now had plans in hand,
become an Earl and rule the land.
Fartullagh was his goal to own
so London town became his home.

In Gaulstown where he housed the Dean,
As he played chess with King and Queen,
A different story there did spark
of Mary and Arthur after dark.

The Earl returned in furious rage
and locked his wife up in a cage.
And charged with that his last sons Mother
begot a bastard by his brother.

Now Bellfield with a pistol charged
To kill his brother out he barged.
But Arthur out of danger slipped,
and off to England he was shipped.

Mary charged, was guilty found
and to West Indies she was bound.
A spark of kindness Bellfield showed
and locked her in his own abode.

The quest began for Arthur’s pay
to answer for his sinful way
Two thousand pounds alive or dead,
The price upon young Arthur’s head.

By secret message and some deceit
Mary and Arthur said they’d meet
And join as would a man and wife,
then sail to France to live their life.

But Robert heard of such a plan
and up to Dublin town he ran.
As Arthur could not pay his bail,
was left to rot in Dublin jail.

Then Mary to her peers made haste
but they declared she was un-chaste
So George from Ennell he stepped in
to try and quieten down the din

But George accosted by the knave
that he could also be a slave,
“your house and land as Belvedere
are under thumb of Brother dear”

The stately home at Gaulstown Park
now so lonely cold and dark
Abandoned by her kind and kin,
imprisoned Mary for her sin.

For thirty years she roamed the ground
at Gaulstown where the only sound
Was ringing of a lonely bell,
her whereabouts the Earl to tell

Then Arthur passed through heavens door
with wings on prison clothes he wore
To god confessed his love was true,
but only one on this earth knew.

Then when the wicked Earl died
the haggard Mary never cried
She placed him next his own first wife,
then sailed to France to end her life.

While Mary on her deathbed lay
the priest invited her to pray
Confess thy sins I beg of you,
but Mary to the Earl was true.

Two ghosts in Gaulstown bog do dwell,
I still can hear the ringing bell
The Earl an empty painful shrill,
While Mary cries for Arthur still.

By Denis O’Neill

Mary and Arthur

Behold my love I give unto thee my heart
Though in secret, for if this love affair ever did be known
This country I would flee and we must part.
Never to reap the crops from this seed of love we’ve sown.

By Denis O’Neill

The Galloping Earl

Down from Dublin town he did ride
Galloping, galloping, race like the tide
Your brothers was seen with your wife by his side
The message delivered to Robert

Frothing and foaming the horse gallops on
Galloping endlessly galloping on
I’ll kill my own wife if the man he is gone
The choices that lay before Robert

Turning his thoroughbred into his house
Pillows of foam on the thoroughbred’s mouth
Arthur has been and has left with your spouse
The stable boy had to tell Robert

Back on the steed after water and hay
Got to get back up to Dublin today
For this impertinence Arthur will pay
And his wife again locked up by Robert

By Denis O’Neill

The Death of Robert

November moon casting a silver gleam upon the lake
Cold crisp air rustling through the crimson leaves, just loud enough to hear
The shore gently splashed with the ebb and flow of shimmering water
“Surly this is my beautiful place, my home, my Belvedere”.

“What breaks this tranquility, who dares enter my dream?
I have made my peace with my maker. Is this how I must abandon life?
Live and die by the sword is fine, till its time to die
Die then I will, maybe now the hurting will end, if not for me then for my wife”.

“How much longer can this mortal body endure pain?
The sun is rising behind me but alas I am too weak to turn
I am lying in my own lake now, a lake of scarlet blood
I know now that when my body dies, my soul is destined to burn”

“Before the sun rises fully on this my last day on earth
Lord forgive me for I did not hear your compassionate plea
With this my last breath, let me into your kingdom of glory
I have suffered as you did now let me die, let me die, let me….....”

By Denis O’Neill

Rt. Hon. George Rochfort,

Father of the 1st Earl of Belvedere.

Robert Rochfort (Grandfather of the first Earl) and his new wife, Lady Hannah Handcock, were the first inhabitants of the old Norman castle since its abandonment in 1651. Robert restored the house and grounds and turned “Gaulstown” into one of the finest houses in the County. In 1707 Robert was appointed Baron of the exchequer by Queen Anne. Working in London and only returning to his beloved Gaulstown during periods of leave, Robert retired his position as M.P. in the early 1720s and lived out his years in Gaulstown, in the company of his wife and family. In 1726, Robert commissioned the building of a chapel at Gaulstown, together with a bronze bell inscribed with his name.
Robert died in May 1727, leaving in his will among other things, £200 for the completion of Christ Church, Gaulstown, and £10 for the poor of the parish and £100 for the children residing at Gaulstown House. His son George, (born in 1682) married Lady Elizabeth Moore, daughter of Henry Moore, 3rd Earl of Drogheda and Mary Cole, daughter of Sir John Cole, Bt. on 24th January 1704. George held his fathers seat in parliament and was also a member of the privy council of Ireland. In 1730 he was granted permission to hold a weekly market in Tyrrellspass. George also entertained royalty and gentry at Gaulstown among them King George, Jonathan Swift, the Earl of Drogheda and the Earl of Spencer to mention but a few.
As a regular visitor to the house, Swift mentions it many times in his works, some cryptic forms can be linked to Gaulstown but one passage is directed at George to rebuild the old Norman castle as a Norman castle, or, knock it down and build a new house in its footprint. The passage describes Gaulstown thus:-

‘Tis so ugly, so useful, so big and so little,
‘Tis so staunch, and so crazy, so strong and so brittle,
‘Tis at one time, so hot and another so cold,
Tis part of the new and part of the old,
‘Tis just half a blessing and just half a curse,
I wish then George, it was better or worse.

George and his brother John, aka Nimrod, were dedicated to the task of making Gaulstown House one of the finest in the Kingdom, employing the most renowned gardeners and architects. George laid out the network of canals and artificial lakes in the grounds and cleared the oak wood to the west of the estate to allow the sunset to be seen on the lake. Much was the work in Gaulstown during the reign of George that Swift himself was roped in to help out, Swift, in his “letters to Vanessa” penned a verse telling of his labours at Gaulstown. Gaulstown, Near Kinnegad, July 5th 1721. (Swift opened with his usual poetic ramblings) What is this world, without being as easy in it as prudence and fortune can make it? I find every day more silly and insignificant, and I conform myself to it for my own ease.
I am here as deep employed in other folks plantations and ditchings as if they were my own concern, and think of my absent friends with delight, and hopes of seeing them happy and of being happy with them. (Swift ended as he began with connotations and ovations to his recipient.) Swift also writes of George and John (Nimrod) or as Swift calls him “Nim”

“At seven the Dean in night gown drest
Goes round the house to wake the rest:
At nine the Nim and George facetious,
Go to the Dean to read Lucretius,
At ten my Lady comes and hectors
And kisses George, and ends our lectures
And when she has him by the neck fast
Hauls him and scolds us down to breakfast”

The celebrated “cartwheel of roads” that were the centre piece of the estate grounds had in its “Hub”, a larger than life sized bronze statue of George, on horse back, and dressed in the ancient family armour, bearing the Rochfort crest. The statue was on a plinth of granite that stood waist high to the admirer. The Lady that Swift refers to in his poetry was Lady Elizabeth Moore, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Drogheda and not to be confused with the wife of George Rochfort jnr. (his son) who also married Lady Elizabeth Moore (his cousin) daughter of his mothers’ brother Capel Moore. Lady Elizabeth (Moore) Rochfort is an ancestral relation of Diana Frances Spencer, known to us all as Diana, Princess of Wales. The link is as follows:- Lady Elizabeth Moore was daughter of Hamilton, Henry, Moore; 3rd Earl of Drogheda, Her grandfather was Henry Moore, 1st Earl of Drogheda.
Henry was married to Countess Alice Spencer. (Her Grandmother) Countess Alice Spencer (her grandmother) came from a family of royalty. Her sister Margaret was a Countess, her Brother Robert was a Viscount and her brother was

Henry Spencer 1st Earl of Sunderland.
Henry was the father of Robert 2nd Earl of Sunderland
Robert was the father of Charles 3rd Earl of Sunderland
Charles was the father of John of Althorp Hon MP
John of Althorp MP was the father of John 1st Earl of Spencer
John 1st Earl of Spencer was the father of George John 2nd Earl of Spencer
George John 2nd Earl of Spencer was the father of Fredrick 4th Earl of Spencer
Fredrick 4th Earl of Spencer was the father of Charles Robert 6th Earl of Spencer
Charles Robert 6th Earl of Spencer was the father of Albert Edward 7th Earl of Spencer
Albert Edward 7th Earl of Spencer was the father of Edward John 8th Earl of Spencer Edward
John 8th Earl of Spencer was the father of Diana Frances Princess of Wales

Several other links to royal families are traceable back to George and though George himself only entered the peerage as Rt. Hon, he is the first Rochfort of Gaulstown to marry into “Royal” bloodlines thus opening the door for future members of the clan to enter the peerage. His first son Robert being created 1st Earl of Belvedere in 1756. Robert was a callous and dangerous man and local folklore, or common sense will see how he climbed from nothing to Earldom. It is un-written and un-proven, but many of the fireside stories of my grandfather tell of how the “Wicked Earl” killed his father to gain his seat in parliament. George died on July 8th 1730, at the age of 48, not in itself enough to convict the Earl but think of the motive, then look at the following deaths in the Rochfort family. 1730 Death Of George and transfer of power to Robert. 1731 As Seated MP for Westmeath, Robert married Elizabeth Tenison. 1732 Death of Elizabeth Tenison and start of courtship with the daughter of Viscount Molesworth. 1733 Created “Baron Belfield” by King George. 1734 Death of his grandmother (who disapproved of the courtship so soon after the death of his first wife). 1736 Married Mary Molesworth, daughter of 3rd Viscount Molesworth. 1736 Death of his mother at age 50.

Where are they all now?

At least two of the children of George and Elizabeth died at birth or soon after. Most records show George as having six girls and five boys in his family making a total of eleven. Other records show thirteen children. It is reasonable to assume that two died at birth or in infancy. George’s father Robert, who commissioned the building of the chapel at Gaulstown, died in 1727, and was the first burial in the crypt at Gaulstown. If you look back at the deaths of the Rochfort’s of Gaulstown, it is reasonable also to assume that this was the order in which they were placed in the crypt, although, an extended family of Rochfort’s lived in the “Big House” at this time, so, more than immediate family may be interred the crypt also.

List of people interred in the crypt:

1727 Robert Rochfort (1651 – 1727).
1730 Rt.Hon. George Rochfort son of Robert.
1732 Elizabeth, First wife of Robert 1st Earl. 1
734 Lady Hannah Wife of Robert (1651-1727).
1736 Lady Elizabeth Wife of Rt. Hon. George.
(other members of the Rochfort family)
1774 Robert, 1st Earl of Belvedere, was the last to be interred in the crypt.

The bell tower was constructed by George 2nd Earl of Belvedere as a memorial to his father. The bell tower was constructed out of the ruins of the prison house at Gaulstown, on the instructions of Mary, Countess of Belvedere. After the 1st Earls burial in 1774, the crypt was sealed with a lead door and was unopened until the “Black and Tan” era of Irish history, when local volunteers were captured in an attempt to steal the lead door for the purpose of producing bullets. The authorities of the day built a stone wall in front of the crypt door and filled the stairwell with mortar, to prevent further attempts to rid the Earl or his family of their lead caskets.

Arthur Rochfort

The Countess stole his heart then the Earl stole his freedom.

Arthur lived in Belfield House near Milltownpass. He was married to Sarah Singleton of Drogheda, and they had eight children, four boys and four girls. Arthur held the office of M.P. for Westmeath taking over the seat from his brother Robert on his entry to the peerage. He was rightly or wrongly accused of adultery, and said to have had a love affair with Mary Molesworth and accused of being the father of Mary’s last child. Robert, the husband of Mary, charged his pistol and proceeded to settle the matter but after a brief confrontation Arthur fled to England. Robert then confronted his wife who claimed that both parties were innocent. Mary was found guilty at trial even though many say the trial was a farce and testimony was tainted, but Mary was spared transportation and handed over to her husband to “do with as he wished”. Arthur was not involved in the first trial as he was a “fugitive”. Arthur is said to have pleaded for his brothers’ forgiveness, claiming innocence of both parties, and begged to be allowed to return to Belfield where his estate was now a shambles. Arthur returned in 1754 where he visited Belfield and is said to have assisted in Mary’s escape. Robert and Arthur quarrelled continuously for the next few years until Robert finally had Arthur charged on 12th May 1757. Mary was again called as witness as were Dean Delaney and the Dean’s wife, Arthur was found guilty and since his neglected estate was unable to pay the £2,000 damages awarded to Robert, Arthur was sent to the Marshalea debtor’s prison. Why didn’t Robert transport Mary and challenge Arthur to a duel? In the 1700’s it was common place for an offended party to challenge the offender to a duel.
Arthur, as the offender, would not be allowed challenge Robert. Why didn’t Robert challenge Arthur? Why didn’t Robert have his wife transported to the West Indies? Why didn’t Mary end it all for herself and commit suicide? Many questions can be answered by two words. Religion and Politics. The King or Queen of England was also the head of the church. It was crucial to obey laws of God as well as King; also unwritten laws of chivalry had to be adhered to. Mary being accused had been confined to Gaulstown. The trial had not yet taken place. It is recorded by Mrs. Delaney, wife of Dean Patrick Delaney, in a letter to Mrs. Dewes, of Charges Street London, dated March 10th 1744. Quote from within the letter “they say he has come to England in search of him,(Arthur) to kill him whenever he meets him; but I hope this resentment will cool, and not provoke him so desperate an action, and he does not appear to have any such rash design, but is more cheerful and composed than one could expect him to be; he is very well bred, and very well in his person and manner; his wife being locked up in one of his houses in Ireland, with a strict guard over her, and they say he is so miserable as to love her even now”. This would suggest they were still together, albeit under duress, and Robert was still in love with Mary at this stage, it was Arthur who was the culprit. Misguided by others, Mary changed her plea to guilty, thinking it would free her for divorce as Robert’s hatred had spilled over onto their marriage. Instead of divorce, which was costly and by special decree from the King, Robert had Mary charged with adultery. Robert was now in a position to challenge Arthur to a duel. Arthur had already challenged Dillon Pollard, for defamation of character. Arthur shot and killed Pollard under strict rules of engagement. Arthur also challenged a noted solicitor, Mr Edmund Prey, to a duel when Prey declined to represent him in clearing his name, saying he couldn’t acquit a guilty man, but Prey denied saying this and demanded an apology. Arthur Apologised.
Robert knew that a duel was to death, and being aware of Arthur’s previous experience on the duel lawn, never challenged him, instead he pursued him through the courts.
This may have been the start of legal settlement over duelling. Arthur was arrested on May 12th 1757, in his residence in Sackville Street, Dublin, and tried with adultery. A sum of £2,000 damages was assessed or Arthur deported, and quit the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Arthur refused to leave and was unable to pay this amount. Arthur was lodged in jail, his estate sold and titles removed. Arthur was sentenced to twenty years hard labour, but only served little over sixteen years. Arthur died on 22nd April 1774. He is buried in St. Audeon’s Church, Dublin.

Jane Rochfort, Countess of Lanesborough.

Born 1737, in Gaulstown House, she was the first of five children born to Robert and Mary Rochfort, and their only daughter. Jane Rochfort grew up in the family home at Gaulstown where her mother was incarcerated. She led a sheltered life and seldom socialised, oblivious to the fact that she was said to be the most beautiful of the Rochfort family. At the age of nineteen, Jane married Brinsley Butler 2nd Earl of Lanesborough . Brinsley, a widower was the father of a two year old girl called Mary. The marriage was held on 22nd June 1754. Jane, now a Countess, and her newly wed husband were soon blessed with a son and heir.
On the 10th July 1776, Augustus Richard was born. On the death of her brother George, the 2nd Earl of Belvedere, Jane inherited part of the Belvedere estate including Belvedere House. Her sister in law and widow of the late 2nd Earl, also called Jane, was the Countess of Belvedere and are often misidentified. Jane lived at Belvedere House for a short period before her death in February 1828, at the ripe old age of 91. Her estate was passed to her surviving children and grand children with the house at Belvedere passing to her grandson Lord Brinsley, 4th Earl of Lanesborough, Lord Brinsley Died in 1847 though not from any famine related illness and the house at Belvedere passed to his cousin Charles Brinsley-Marlay. An Interesting fact about Robert 1st Earl of Belvedere.
Robert dearly loved Mary and also his home in Gaulstown, so much was his love for his home that when created Earl he chose the title Earl of “Belvedere” and not Earl of Gaulstown or Earl of Fartullagh or even Earl of Westmeath. The word “Belvedere” comes from the Latin words “Belle Videre” meaning “Beautiful Place” and takes its name from the Belvedere, a villa constructed between 1485 and 1487 for Pope Innocent VII to serve as a retreat from the Vatican palace. It was the first such villa to be built in Rome since the fall of the Roman Empire Gaulstown past and present.

Who lives in Gaulstown Today?

The 1854 valuation of tenements show only ten families living in Gaulstown. Twenty one families live there now and with the current building boom more families may decide to live here. Only two names on the 1854 valuation of tenements still live in Gaulstown today, the list is as follows; Lord Kilmaine. “Unoccupied”. Peter Slevin. Elizabeth Neigh. Patrick Hamilton. Matthew Cully.Thomas Harford. Hugh O’ Neill. James Garland. John Corrigan. James Kilmurry.

The first peasant to break the reign of landlords in the Gaulstown area was Denis O’Neill, where under the terms on the new land act of 1903, Denis bought the land from Sir John Edward Dean Baron 5th Lord Kilmaine.

Today’s inhabitants reading the map from the Gibbonstown side, (The Park) to the boundary of Gortumblo on the Dublin road, are as follows:
Anne (Nan) Cleary.
Denis O’Neill.
Gerard (Gerry)Byrne.
Hugh O'Neill. jnr.
P Kirby (for sale)
Seán Robbinson.
Mary-Joe Gorman. R.I.P.
Aidan Cleary.
Edward Cully.
Noel McCabe.
Enda Cully.
Gregory Byrrell.
Thomas Cleary.
Enda Wynne.
Desmond McGuire.
Philip Cullen.
(R.P.Flynn recently sold).
Patrick McGuire.
Denis McGuire.
Patrick Geraghty.
Mary (May) Curran.

Description from Lewis's Topographical Directory of Ireland, 1837

CASTLELOST, a parish, in the barony of FARTULLAGH, county of WESTMEATH, and province of LEINSTER;

containing with the post-town of Rochfort-Bridge, 1909 inhabitants.

This place was celebrated at a very early period from an extensive monastery, founded at Rathyne or Rathenin, (now Rahanine) by St. Carthag or Mochuda, in which he presided for more than 40 years over 867 monks, who supported themselves and the neighbouring poor by their labour.

There was also a very eminent school under the direction of St. Carthag, in connection with the monastery; but in the Easter holidays of 630, he and his monks were driven from the Abbey by King Blathmac, and the saint took refuge at Lismore, in the County of Waterford, where he died in 636. He is said to have been succeeded by St. Constantine, King of Britain, who resigned his Crown; and the names of succeeding abbots are preserved till the year 783, from which date there are no further records of the monastery.

The parish is situated on the road from Dublin to Athlone and is bounded on the south by part of the Bog of Allen: comprising 10,794 statute acres, of which 5932 are applotted under the tithe act. The surface is gently undulating, with a few hills of considerable elevation, the highest of which is Gnewbane: the lands are principally under tillage, and the system of agriculture is improving.
In Gnewbane are some quarries of a species of marble, and also of black-stone; and at the foot of the hill is an extensive tract of bog separating this parish from King’s County.(Offaly)

The principal seats are
Sidebrook, that of J. Rochfort, Esq.,
Heathfield of Dr. Fergusson;
Farview of D. North, Esq.;
Gortumloe, of J. H. Shiel, Esq.;
Cottage of Mrs. Shiel; and
Drummond Lodge of T. M. Carew, Esq.

The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Meath, and in the patronage of Lord Kilmaine:
the tithes amount to £221 10s. 8¾d. The rector also receives tithes from the townlands of High and Low Baskin, in the parish of Drumraney.

The church, a neat, modern edifice was erected in 1815, by aid of a gift of £800 from the late Board of First Fruits.

The glebe-house was built by aid of a gift of £400 and a loan of £400 from the same board in 1810: the glebe copmprises 22 acres, subject to a rent of £24 per annum.

In the R.C. divisions, this parish forms the district of Miden and Milltown.

The parochial school is aided by an annual donation from the incumbent; t
here are about 24 boys and 13 girls in the school. A national school at Rochfort Bridge is also in progress; and there are three pay schools, in which are about 128 children.

There are still remaining some ruins of the old castle, and of an ancient mansion-house, which were for successive ages the residences of the Tyrrell family, whose possessions were forfeited in the war of 1641. There are also, on the castle lands, the remains of the ancient parish church; it contains vestiges of various monuments to that family, among which is an altar tomb with the recumbent figure of a knight in armour.

After the decay of the old church, another was erected on the demesne of Gaulstown by Robert Rochfort; it was used for more than 100 years previously to the erection of the present church, and is now a venerable ruin, forming an interesting and picturesque feature in the scenery of Gaulstown, the seat of Lord Kilmaine.

Iin the adjoining parish of Kilbride-Pilate. There are several Danish forts, one of the largest of which is in the townland of Gortumloe, the estate of J. H. Shiel, Esq., whose labourers, in 1836, discovered in the adjoining field four perfect human skeletons.

Coming Soon - more information on Robert Rochfort 1st Earl including his last will and testament, stories and accounts of his funeral, funny story about Earl of Belvedere and Lord Burlington about a venture they tried involving Turkeys ( might leave that one till nearer Christmas) evidence to suggest that the architect Cassels did not design Belvedere House but was accredited for it at a later date........the plot has thickened...stay tuned

Anyone with any local stories are welcome to post them.
(1285 – 1330) Justiciar of Ireland

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