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The Belfry Restaurant, Portneshangan, County Westmeath
15401215
General view from the south.
Reg. No.15401215
Date1820 - 1830
Previous NamePortneshangan Church of Ireland church
TownlandBALLYNAGALL
CountyCounty Westmeath
Coordinates244738, 258330
Categories of Special InterestARCHITECTURAL ARTISTIC HISTORICAL SOCIAL TECHNICAL
RatingNational
Original Usechurch/chapel
In Use Asrestaurant
 
Description
Freestanding Church of Ireland church, built c.1824. Now in use as a restaurant with modern single-storey extension to the north. Church comprises five-bay hall with single-bay single-storey gable-fronted porches to centre of south and north elevations of nave. Three-stage tower on square-plan (with clasping diagonal corner buttresses) adjoining to the west with raised parapet with English-style crenellations, corner pinnacles and a needle spire on octagonal plan. Pitched slate roof behind continuous battlemented parapet with eaves cornice and cast-iron rainwater goods. Original roof removed in 1989. Constructed of snecked dressed limestone with extensive ashlar detail. Pointed segmental-headed Perpendicular windows, triple-light to nave openings and to lower stage of tower (on south and north faces) and five-light to chancel/sanctuary gable (east), each with cut stone switchback mullions, chamfered reveals and drip mouldings over. Pointed segmental-headed doorcases to west face of tower and to projecting porch on south side of nave with studded timber doors and drip mouldings over. Paired square-headed window openings to second stage of tower with chamfered reveals, stone mullions and hoodmouldings over. Clock face to second stage, above windows, to south face. Pointed segmental-headed openings to belfry (third stage) with cut stone Perpendicular tracery, drip mouldings over and modern leaded windows. Set back from road in mature wooded grounds at the entrance to Ballynagall House (ruinous). Original entrance to east with cast-iron gates, cut stone gate piers on square-plan with decorative coping over and rubble limestone boundary walls. Church now approached from the south through entrance gates to Ballynagall House. Associated rectory (15401206) located c.1 kilometre to the west, at west end of former Ballynagall Demesne.

Appraisal

Portneshangan Church of Ireland church is one of the finest buildings of its type and date in Ireland. It was built in an accomplished Gothic Perpendicular-style to designs by John Hargrave (1788-1833), a prominent architect of the day. The consistent and well executed detailing and the elegant and delicate spire helps create a very fine architectural composition. Although now missing its original roof (removed by the Church of Ireland in 1989) and altered by a recent conversion to a restaurant, the essential character and quality remains. Lewis (1837) records this structure as 'a handsome building, in the Gothic style, surmounted with a spire erected in 1824, at an expense of £2908, of which £1892 was contributed by Jas. Gibbons, Esq., (who also gave the site), £277 by Sir Richard Levinge, and £738 was a gift from the late Board of First Fruits'. The patronage of two wealthy landowners helps to explain the very high architectural standard and the expensive detailing found throughout this impressive church. The single-storey projections to the centre of the north and south elevations of the nave were originally in use as the family pews for the Gibbons Family of Ballynagall House and the Levinge Family of Knockdrin Castle, the original patrons. This appealing church at Portneshangan forms the centrepiece of an important group of related structures along with the rectory (15401206), and the good gates, piers and boundary walls to the east. Cartographic evidence suggests that the gate lodge to the south (15401214) was originally built to serve this church, and not Ballynagall House (15401212). This church represents the best of its type in Westmeath, along with St. Bigseach's at Kilbixy, near Ballynacarrigy. It is interesting that both these churches were sited close to the main entrances and within the confines of important estates/demesnes and were both built largely at the expense of these wealthy patrons.
 
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