27 April 2014

Pondering the names of Beaulieu
and Quasimodo on Low Sunday

For over 800 years, Beaulieu has been home to just two families – the Plunketts and the Tichbournes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

After a few weeks absence, it was good to be back in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, this morning [27 April 2014] for the Cathedral Eucharist.

This Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, is traditionally known as Low Sunday, although in some parts of Europe it is also known as Saint Thomas Sunday, Quasimodo Sunday and Quasimodogeniti.

The traditional English name of Low Sunday may reflect the contrast with the high celebrations of Easter last Sunday, although some say the word “Low” may come from the Latin Laudes, the first word of a sequence used in the Sarum Liturgy. The name is Quasimodo Sunday comes from the first words of the introit in Latin.

In Victor Hugo’s novel Notre Dame de Paris or The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), Quasimodo is so names because he was found abandoned on the doorsteps of Notre Dame Cathedral on the Sunday after Easter, 1467, by Archdeacon Claude Frollo.

As the bells rang out in the cathedral this morning, I was invited to serve as subdeacon, assisting at the liturgy and with a chalice at the administration of the Eucharist. The Revd Garth Bunting presided, Canon George Butler was the canon-in-residence and preacher and this morning’s Eucharist was sung by the Ashtead Singers from Surrey.

The beach at Bettystown, below Relish, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Later two of us drove out to Laytown on the coast of Co Meath and then on to Bettystown for a walk on the beach. Although the temperature only ever reached 13 at most, there was a bright blue sky and bright sunshine.

We were warmly welcomed and had a delightful lunch in Relish, looking out over the beach and out to the Irish Sea, before leaving by the terrace at the back of the restaurant for another walk on the sandy stretch of beach at Bettystown.

Later we followed the coast north to Mornington, and drove along the banks of the Boyne estuary, first along the south side into Drogheda, and then back out on the north side as far as Baltray. On our way back into Drogheda, we stopped once again at Beaulieu Cross to look at Beaulieu, a beautiful country house dating from the 17th century, with a four acre walled garden and landscaped grounds.

Beaulieu overlooks the banks of the River Boyne and is halfway between Drogheda and Baltray. The house and garden are open to visitors this year from 1 June to 5 September 2014, including Heritage Week.

But how did Beaulieu get its French-sounding name? Some say it comes from the Irish baile for a town or townland, but no-one seems to know. By 1650, it appears as Beaulieu on a map of the area.

For over 800 years, this house has been home to just two families – the Plunketts and the Tichbournes. This was originally the site of a Norman fortress, and the Plunkett family first lived in a motte-and-bailey and towerhouse-style castle before building a Jacobean house in the early 17th century.

The Plunkett Jacobean house was redesigned as a grand mansion in the English style and is a rare example of late 17th century Irish domestic architecture to have survived without alterations.

Sir Henry Tichbourne, Governor of Drogheda and defender of the town in the siege of 1641, built the house on the banks of the River Boyne after the restoration of Charles II in 1660. It is one of the earliest examples in Ireland of an unfortified house, and was probably designed by a Dutch architect.

The Boyne Estuary at low tide late this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

The walls are of rough stone, possibly salvaged from the ruins of the Plunkett castle said to have stood beside the present house. They were covered in lime render with fine Dutch bricks surrounding the windows and doors. Legend has it that these little red bricks were brought up the Boyne as ballast in boats. The same boats may have brought the stuccodores, woodcarvers and other craftsmen who decorated Beaulieu.

The house was completed by 1666, and the interior decorations, including the paintings, wood carvings and grand staircase were the last improvements added in 1723.

Beaulieu’s high eave roof and dormered attic are carried on massive modillion cornices, typical of the Caroline period and other houses built in the south and east of England. The small, red brick window dressings reflect Dutch fashions of the time. The front door is protected by heavy oak and iron shutters and there is evidence that a massive ditch and a tall wooden palisade once protected the curtilage, where a yard and barracks housed a garrison.

The original heavier sash windows were replaced in about 1722 for lighter versions. Some of the original windows can be seen along the gallery overlooking the magnificent two-storey hall. The grand, Georgian-style staircase was installed in the early 18th century, but the original, simpler staircase stands to the right of the hall.

Beside the house are four acres of walled garden and grassy terraces. The garden is thought to be designed by the Dutch artist van de Hagen who painted the picture over the hall fireplace, the drawing room ceiling.

Family letters show Sir Henry Tichbourne was growing exotic fruits, such as figs and nectarines, at Beaulieu in the 1720s, and he boasted about them to his half-brother, Lord Molesworth.

Beaulieu House has been home to the same family since the 1660s, and the present owner, Gabriel De Freitas, is the tenth generation in direct descent from Sir Henry Tichbourne. Today, her family promotes Beaulieu as a “romantic location” for weddings, conferences, banquets and special occasions.

From Beaulieu, we returned along the banks of the Boyne estuary, through Drogheda, and onto the M1, continuing to wonder about the names of Quasimodo and Beaulieu on Low Sunday.

Beaulieu is promoted today as a “romantic location” for weddings, conferences, banquets and special occasions (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)


Almighty Father,
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to rise again for our justification:
Grant us so to put away the leaven
of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord.


Acts 2: 14a, 22-32 or Genesis 8: 6-16, 9: 8-16; Psalm 16; I Peter 1: 3-9; John 20: 19-31.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him.
Deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful country house. Earlier chock-full of Jack B. Yates paintings and the Beaulieu Church of Ireland gem of a chapel on the demesne.