This circa 1790 painting by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, today in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland, shows the builder of Ballyscullion, Frederick Hervey, Bishop of Derry and 4th Earl of Bristol, with his granddaughter, Lady Caroline Crichton, in the gardens of the Villa Borghese in Rome.
House & Family History: The great house of Ballyscullion, inspired by St. Peter's in Rome, has entirely vanished. Also known as Bishop's Folly, the spectacular domed house was begun in 1787 by Frederick Augustus Hervey (1730-1803), the famous earl-bishop (4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry), who had an obsession with domed houses (Ickworth House in Suffolk, very similar to Ballyscullion, is the only extant legacy of his obsession with domes). Though it was never completely finished, Ballyscullion featured amazing interiors, including a double corkscrew staircase, possibly modeled on one in the Château de Chambord, an oval lobby, and a drawing room and dining room that were twins. All this was fitted out with gilded furniture, red and white damask curtains with gold lace, silk wall hangings, and an abundance of paintings and statues. The earl-bishop was a great collector of paintings and marbles, an inveterate traveler (Bristol Hotels, famous on the continent, were named after him), and a lover of Italy (he died there in 1803 in the outhouse of a peasant's cottage near Rome because the owner didn't want a Protestant heretic to die under his roof). Brian de Breffny and Rosemary ffolliott, writing in "The Houses of Ireland": Ballyscullion had "an extravagant rotunda with outstretched elliptical wings and a dome to vie with that of the Pantheon in Rome, beautifully sited to obtain a view over the hills of Co. Antrim and the woodlands of Co. Derry." At his death the earl-bishop bequeathed Ballyscullion to his relation Henry Bruce, who took the decision to make his seat at Downhill and to demolish Ballyscullion, selling its stone and other materials. The portico from the great house found its way to St. George's Church in Belfast, while an Italian chimneypiece from Downhill (probably originally from Ballyscullion) is today at Castle Upton in Co. Antrim. Downhill was the earl-bishop's other great house in Ireland; nothing of it survives today except the shell of the house and some outbuildings, including the famous Mussenden Temple.
House Replaced By: In 1840 a second house, named Ballyscullion Park, was built near the ruins of the first house. This much smaller house was designed by Sir Charles Lanyon for Admiral Sir Henry William Bruce, a younger son of The Rev. Henry Hervey Aston Bruce, who had inherited Ballyscullion from his cousin, the earl-bishop. It is this house that is today available for events.
Title: Houses of Ireland: Domestic Architecture from the Medieval Castle to the Edwardian Villa, The
Author: de Breffny, Brian; ffolliott, Rosemary; Mott, George
Year Published: 1975
Reference: pgs. 166-168
Publisher: New York: Viking Press
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Guide to Irish Country Houses, A
Author: Bence-Jones, Mark
Year Published: 1988
Publisher: London: Constable and Company
Book Type: Hardback
House Listed: Demolished
Park Listed: Destroyed
Current Seat / Home of: Richard and Rosalind Mulholland; family here since 1938.
Past Seat / Home of: SEATED AT FIRST HOUSE: Frederick Augustus Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, until 1803. SEATED AT CURRENT HOUSE: Sir Henry Hervey Bruce, 19th century; Bruce family here until 1938. Sir Harry and Lady Mulholland, 20th century.
Current Ownership Type: Demolished
Primary Current Ownership Use: Demolished
Ownership Details: The second, curent, house is available for weddings.