Overlooking the site of the Battle of the Boyne, Oldbridge House is located on a bend in the Boyne which allows it to enjoy two views of the river. Oldbridge estate is located approximately 5km to the west of Drogheda, 3km north of Donore village. Oldbridge lies at the eastern end of the Bru na Boinne area and is separated from it by the river Boyne. Oldbridge Estate comprises 500 acres (ca. 200 hectares) of prime agricultural land. Oldbridge House, built around 1750, is located above a sharp bend in the river and is situated at the western end of a designed parkland landscape. Oldbridge was owned by the Coddington family from 1724 to 1984. Oldbridge House is a sizeable house in the Palladian style of good design. It is executed in high quality materials and with high quality workmanship. The ancillary areas are also of good architectural quality.
It is now in state ownership and under the care of the Office of Public Works. There is a gate lodge at the eastern end of an avenue close to the ford over the River Boyne. The Obelisk Bridge, named after a monument erected in the 18th century commemorating the battle and blown up in 1923, now spans the river a short distance upstream of the ford. There is also a series of islands in the river including Grove Island and Yellow Island.
Oldbridge estate was the core site for the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Consequently the site is of significant historical interest and national importance. Its location in the buffer zone of the World Heritage site of Bru na Boinne gives it additional status.
The Oldbridge lands were part of the possessions of Mellifont Abbey and were held by the Moore family (later Earls and Marquesses of Drogheda) in the seventeenth Century. In 1724 John Coddington purchased the Oldbridge Estate from the Earl of Drogheda and the family made their home there until it was sold in 1984. The house was then vacant until in 1999 when the house and estate were sold to the State. The house was restored and developed with a display chronicling the Battle of the Boyne.
The Coddington family had an association with the Battle of the Boyne. It is said that brothers, Dixie and William served under King William III at the engagement. Dixie is reputed to have dragged the mortally wounded French Huguenot, Colonel Callimotte, from the river Boyne. For this action Caillimotte gave Dixie command of the Huguenot regiment. Above the front door is an iron cannon ball which was recovered from the battlefield.
The date of construction of the existing Oldbridge House is not known. Scenes sketched by Dirck Maes in 1690 depicting the Battle of the Boyne, indicates that there was a substantial two story house near the village site. This is an artist’s impression not a precise map and so this house could be located on the farmyard site or even on the current house site. In 1690 George Story described a stone house amongst the village houses – “and little Irish Houses almost Close to the River, there was one House likewise of Stone, that had a Court, and some little Works about it, this the Irish had filled with Souldiers”- An Impartial History of The Wars In Ireland by George Warter Story. An estate map by William West, dated 1711, indicates that the original house was built on a site between the farmyard complex and the existing Oldbridge House, but archaeologists found no trace of this building so it may have been on the farmyard site or on the current house site. A principal house is not identified in the deed to John Coddington in 1724. In 1781 the eighteenth century antiquary, Austin Cooper, wrote at Oldbridge Dixie Coddington hath built a new house at a small distance from the old house of the Genets.
Engraving by Dirck Maes showing a two storey house near Oldbridge village in 1690
Oil on canvas by Jan Wyck, 1693, shows two houses near Oldbridge Village. Wyck based his work on the etchings created by Maes.
John Richardson’s Map showing two storey house at western end of village.
According to the Coddington family the original house was so badly damaged that a new building had to constructed. It was designed by George Darley on instructions of a family member of the Coddington family who had seen a prototype of the house near Venice during a grand tour of Europe. According to the Coddington family this new house was completed by 1750. An inscription on piece of baseboard of stair (removed during repairs carried out in 1960s) reads: ‘ December 1836 Patrick Kelly of the City of Dublin / Put up these Staircases. / I worked at this building from April / till now. / 86 years from the first / Building of this house/ till now as we see by a stick like this found.’ Other experts suggest that Oldbridge House was built in the 1740s by either John Coddington or his nephew Dixie.
Christine Casey & Alistair Rowan, The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster (1993) suggest that the house was designed by George Darley, a local mason/architect, who also designed the renovated Dunboyne Castle, Dowth Hall and The Thosel in Drogheda. The Darley family began as stonemasons and progressed to architecture. The difficulty of attributing Oldbridge to George Darley is that he was born in 1730 which would have meant that Oldbridge was designed at a very young age and would the Coddingtons have trusted such a young and untried architect. Dowth Hall was constructed about 1760, Dunboyne dates to 1764 while the Tholsel dates to 1770. Oldbridge House could well date to this period when Darley was very active locally – 1760-1770.
The date of 1757 is also suggested as a date for construction of the house as this was the date of a lease being taken of lands at Tankardstown where Dixie Coddington and his wife of three years may have considered setting up home.
An advertisement from 1740 sets out the letting of the house and gardens for lease. From the Dublin Journal 14-18th October 1740: “To be let: The House, Garden and Demesne of Oldbridge, lately the seat of John Coddington Esq, deceased, and now of his Widow: it is pleasantly situated on the river Boyne, within one Mile and a half of Drogheda, whence is a Turnpike Road to Dublin. The Demesne with House, out-houses, and Gardens contains about 140 plantation acres of Choice Lands, all enclosed by the River Boyne, and a Stone Wall, and all very finely improved, and divided into Parks, with enclosures and Gates and Piers to each Park, all in good Repair with excellent Meadows, there is all Manner of Houses and out-houses fit for a gentleman, all in good Repair, the Gardens contain variety of flowers, Fruits, Gravel and Grass Walks, and fine Hedges and are beautified by an Obelisk on the opposite side of the River. There is a beautiful Octagonal Fruitry, in which a very fine Green-House adorned with Statues, and stocked with variety of Choice Greens, and exotick Plants, the Fruitery is well planted with choice Wall Trees, and adorned with variety of Gravel and Grass Walks, with beautiful Slopes, descent and Espaliers. Enquire of Captain Dixie at Drogheda.”
Originally Oldbridge House consisted of a three storey, three bay centre portion, slightly advanced, with lower two storey, two bay flanking wings. It bears a resemblance to a suburban villa or town house rather than a country property. The doorcase has an understate tripartite pedimented Doric doorcase with fine carved detailing on the stonework. The upper floors have moulded architraves and triangular pediments either side of a segmental pediment. The house featured a piano nobile which is the main floor of a large house, containing the reception rooms: usually of lofty proportions. The west elevation of the house was five bays wide with single bay wings on either side. Examination of the former gable walls inside the roof space of the north wing confirms this layout with remnants of external render. Evidence of the former internal layout of the house does not survive. The position of the original staircase could not be determined. The service stairs in the north wing dates from the mid to late eighteenth century and the same style was employed when the wings were raised another floor. Removal of damaged internal lath and plaster at ground floor level in the service stair show that the window ope at this level was moved to better facilitate the stair or to better align the elevation. This change seems to pre-date the staircase.
Wren’s map of Louth of c. 1766 shows the town of Oldbridge but not the house but this was a map of Louth County and the map maker does not show any of the houses bordering the county.
Some undated features in the house
Oldbridge House from a print dated 1778 Version1
Oldbridge House from a print dated 1778 Version 2
Oldbridge House from a print dated 1778 Version 3
The house was built of limestone, which is reputed to have come from The Black Quarry, which is located on the estate south of the Walled Garden. The Coddingtons worked a number of quarries on their lands. In 1837 Lewis mentions “the well-worked quarry at Sheephouse and the limestone is of a handsome light colour.” Sheephouse quarry had limestone which were grey and coarsly crystalline. This rock was extensively quarried for building and ornamental purposes and the prices were similar to those charged by the more famous Ardbraccan quarries. There were several more quarries to the north of this quarry which produced gray crystalline limestone. On the northern bank, east of the obelisk, there was a large quarry which produced finely crystalline grey even bedded limestone and lower layers of coarsely chrystaline rock. Stone-Cutting was recorded in the Schools’ Folklore collection of the 1930s – The quarry at Sheephouse was for years a great source of employment in the district- giving employment to about 100 men between stonecutters and labourers. Most of the churches in Drogheda and in other places were built from Sheephouse limestone which was famous throughout the country. The quarry is now closed.” Got from Joseph Mc Guinn (aged 46) Mullacroghan, Drogheda Josie Mc Guinn (Sgoláire).
Drawn probably 1812
Oldbridge in 1836 OS Map
Oldbridge in 1882 OS Map
The house was remodelled in the 1830’s to the drawings of Frederick Darley a respected local architect and possible grandnephew of George Darley. These alterations raised the flanking wings of the house by one storey, a new staircase was inserted, the piano nobile was removed and internal features such as doors, chimney pieces and plasterwork were changed. It is possible that these changes belong to two different phases as the doors and window joinery on the top floor are consistent with the wings and the central block, the doors have six panels while the joinery at ground and in the first floor of the main stairs are later but also consistent, the doors having four flat panels. Changes in the internal layout may have entailed the creation of two large rooms to the rear at ground level. To span these rooms heavy timber trussed partitioned were introduced at first floor level. At second floor level lighter stud partitions rest on the trussed partitions and support the inner slope of the rear roof.
Plans, receipts and schedules give details of the works undertaken. Robert Ballatine was the building contractor, 1830-37. Drawings on paper watermarked 1832 and inscription by Patrick Kelly on piece of baseboard of stair (removed during repairs carried out in 1960s) in the possession of Nicholas Coddington, Toronto, Canada. Casey and Rowan suggested that these works made the house look more dull and retardataire than it was in the eighteenth century. Retardataire means executed in an earlier or outdated style.
Frederick Darley, architect of Dublin, was born in 1798. From 1833 until 1843 he was the Ecclesiastical Commissioners’ architect for the Archdiocese of Dublin. During the 1830s he was also architect to Trinity College, Dublin, a position which he held until at least 1850. In 1860 he was one of four architects appointed to inspect and report on the restoration of St Patrick’s Cathedral.
The door entrance has an attractive tripartite pediment Doric door case which has fine carved detailing on the stone work. Above the door case is an iron cannonball which was recovered from the battle field and inserted at the time of the building of the house. The upper floors have moulded architraves and triangular pediments either side of a segmented pediment.
Recorded on an estate map of the 1740’s is the Octagonal Garden. From the Octagonal Garden a long straight line of lime trees ran in the direction of the house. There was a farmyard complex on the site of the current farmyard and some of the buildings may have been incorporated into the current structures. The original approach drive and entrance to the estate were closer to where the Obelisk Bridge is today.
To the left side of the house there is a cobble stone stable yard with fine stone cut stable block. This originally contained coach houses, stables and tack and feed rooms. The upper loft was used for hay and feed storage and also contained the groom’s accommodation. There is also a seventy foot well in the courtyard which supplied water to the house and yard. To the right side of the house is a small enclosed courtyard which contains the former butler ’s house which is not open to the public.
September 1954 – National Library
The house and 700 acres were sold in 1984 and purchased by Jack Marry for £900,000.
In June 1985 MCD Promotions said they hoped to bring the American band ZZ Top to perform at Oldbridge later that year but it was too short notice for everyone concerned. During this period concerts were held in large country estates such as Slane Castle.
One third of the first floor was seriously damaged by a fire in April 1988. Part of the ground floor was also damaged by water and by a portion of the upper floor collapsing on it. The fire brigade was called after smoke was noticed by children picking daffodils.
In 1991 an Irish and international consortium,, managed by Brian Britton, former business consultant to Larry Goodman, purchased Oldbridge estate for a price of between £1.5 and £2 million. The consortium planned to turn the estate into top quality hotel and leisure facility. The then owner, Jack Marry, became part of the consortium for development of the estate.
The house was to be converted into a 60 bedroom hotel and 90 holiday lodges were to be provided in three village clusters on the lands. The house was to be converted to hotel use, its upper floors for 9 bedroom accommodation and lower floors for hotel services. The existing entrance hallway and stairs would become the main entrance to the hotel. An extension to the north behind the flanking bay and the height of the existing buildings would contain a conference centre for up to 300 people which shares kitchen facilities with the hotel. Golf changing facilities would be located in the basement level. A gym, sauna, Jacuzzi and sunbed would also be developed in this area. Existing stables to the south of the house would be converted into a twelve bedroom block. Two new wings adjoining the stables would accommodate twenty-two and seventeen bedrooms respectively. These bedroom wings would form a new courtyard within the high walls of the existing estate garden.
The outdoor leisure facilities would focus on three facilities: an eighteen hole golf course, game fishing on the River Boyne and an equestrian centre. The 500 acres estate was large enough to accommodate two golf course. Golf course 1 would consist of eighteen holes and a practise area. All but three holes were to be located south of the ridge on elevated land comprising of fields which were then in use for tillage. Two small ponds were also proposed for irrigation purposes. The estate seemed to naturally break into two parts, a northern section centred on Oldbridge House and a southern section centred on Glenmore House.
One hundred residential units in three clusters were also proposed. Village 1 comprised of 21 houses and 4 apartments was to be located north of the main driveway to Oldbridge in the farmyard and was to be based around the existing utilitarian stone estate buildings.
Village 2 was to contain 33 new two storey houses providing 43 units which were to be completely contained within the highest walls of the south western extreme of the Estates walled garden. Village 3 was to be built around a core of existing stone buildings at the site of the walled garden at Glenmore but these were in poorer repair it would be within the lines of the walled gardens.
The existing gate lodge was proposed to be extended to provide a visitor centre for the Battle of the Boyne – A large scale model of the original battle and a display area containing graphic material, contemporary illustrations and account. The project proposed the employment of 97 staff with an annual wage bill of £900,000.
The principal view of Oldbridge House from the parkland and drive would remain unaltered but the character of the stable area would alter. North of the house the new conference centre and golf facilities would alter the local character as viewed from the north. Village 1 would have limited impact. A viewing tower was proposed for this village. Village 2 was to completely alter the visual character within the walled garden. Village 3 was proposed for the elevated ground in the south of the site and would need mitigating measures. Planning permission was granted 16 February 1993. The council required the developers to construct a new road and canal bridge between the estate entrance and the Obelisk bridge. The estimated cost of the project was £10 million.
By January 1994 the consortium offered the estate for sale on the European market. The consortium had always intended to offer the estate for sale once planning permission was obtained.
In July 1998 the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern jointly undertook to purchase and develop Oldbridge as a gesture of reconciliation in the Northern Ireland Peace Process. In December 1999 the OPW negotiated the purchase of the Oldbridge estate.
The front elevation is seven bays wide and three storeys high, flanked by rendered quadrant walls with central rusticated stone doorways. The façade is finely-droved ashlar limestone. It has three slightly advanced central bays with widely spaced window openings surmounted at first floor level by a pulvinated frieze and pediment, the centre window having a segmental pediment. The outer bays are narrowly spaced. The central door is just three steps above external ground level. It is set in attached pediment Doric aedicule, the entablature extending over narrow flanking wibndows, which rest on a dado. A connonball from the Battle of the Boyne is set into the tympanum over the door. The corners of the central portion and the wings are articulated by a V-jointed rusticated block and start quoins at ground level, terminating at a plat band above the ground floor. All the windows have moulded stone architraves. The ground and second floor windows have plain sills, and the first floor windows stand on a square-profile string course. A projecting cornice terminates the façade. There are basement windows with light shafts below metal gratings in the two southern most bays.
The entire façade is of finely droved-ashlar stone. Droved ashlar is when smooth cut-stones have parallel lines chiselled across the surface, for better weathering and to catch the light. Pronounced corner quoins on the first-floor advanced 3–bay front, and on the corner flanking wings, give an added air of solidity and gravitas to the entrance level and is a feature common to early modern Palladian classicism. Quoins are decorative stones used to create pronounce angles at the corners of buildings. The stone is believed to have been sourced from the Coddington family’s nearby quarry in the Pony Field.
A double continuous stringcourse divides the first and second story, giving a sense of unity with the main centre body of the house and the flanking wings. This is echoed in the continuous cornice at roof level. However, the roof parapet rises in the centre, giving extra prominence to the centre breakfront of the house.
The chimneys are all kept inside the line of the main body of the house, as they are in the former gables of the original house, before the wings were increased to roof level The decorative pots are from the 1830s. The roof of the house is hipped on all four sides and does not show the original form of the house with a central block and wing additions.
The rear elevation is seven bay wide and three storeys high over a sunken basement area bounded by a grassed embankment. It is constructed of rubble stone and rendered, with V-jointed qusticated quoins at ground level, flush ashlar quoins at upper levels, a plain plat band above ground floor and a moulded ashlar cornice. In contrast to the front elevation the façade is composed of a five bay central section, slightly advanced with narrower windows at closer spacing, the central bay having a wider spacing. All windows have moulded stone architraves plain sills.
It is worth noting that the rear of the house, which was less visible to guests was made up of rubble limestone, covered in a lime render. This was a practical choice, seen at many large houses and would have saved the Coddington family money. However, the air of refinement is retained on the rear façade by the continued use of V-jointed rusticated quoins at ground level, and flush ashlar quoins at upper levels. The plat band also continues on the rear. In contrast to the front façade, the rear elevation is made up of a 5–bay central section, slightly advanced. This reflects the layout of the rooms at the rear of the house.
The north elevation faces on to the sunken kitchen court. It is three bays and four storeys high. It is constructed of rubble stone and rendered with hyraulic lime render, with V-jointed rusticated quoins at upper levels, a plain plat band above ground floor and a molded ashlar cornice. Windows have moulded stone architraves and plain sills, the window adjoining the east being blind windows.
The south elevation faces the stable court. It is three bays wide and three storeys high, over an open basement area. It is constructed of rubble stone and rendered with hydraulic lime render, with V-jointed rusticated quioins at ground level, flush ashlar quoins at upper levels, a plain plat band above ground level and a moulded ashlar cornice. Windows have plain stone architraves and sills – two windows at the first floor and one at the second floor being blind windows. A central door at ground levelwith fanlight gives acess to the stable court from the interior corridor. The window above this has a decorative wrought iron balconette.
The Billiard room was constructed about 1890 and was an intrusive construction considering the high quality of the rest of the buildings, so it was removed
Billiard room roof
The basement consists of a groin-vaulted central corridor, with barrell vaulted spaces lit by windows to the rear and sides and unlit cellars below the central part of the front. Floors are generally of stone flags, with individual spaces having suspended timber or brick floors.
The basement consists of a floor area of 3,219 square feet or 299 square metres. Orignally it housed the main serving kitchen and servants’ quarters. The basement consists of ten separate compartments, all located off a long central corridor. The basement has direct access to the enclosed kitchen courtyard.
The kitchen was the engine room of house and always a hub of activity. Used for preparing and cooking food for upstairs and downstairs. It was located in the basement of the house to allow access to food and drinks deliveries through side entrances. The main feature of any Victorian kitchen was the range. The fire in the range was lit first thing in the morning and was kept going until last thing at night. These ranges generated huge amount of heat, so Victorian kitchens had very high ceilings with windows set high in the walls to allow for proper ventilation. Victorian kitchens were usually smoky, dimly lit and contained a table and dresser to hold and display dishes and utensils. Kitchen tables were made from beech, elm, sycamore or pine. Stone slabs or unglazed tiles were common flooring in Victorian kitchens.
Washing up dishes was done in the scullery. This room was usually located next to the kitchen.
The Laundry Room was found in the basement and was where all the washing and ironing of the family’s and servants’ clothes and linen took place. Washing boards, hand turned washing machines, known as Peg Dolly’s, and wringing machines used to squeeze excess water from the clothes and linen. All the washing was hung from the ceiling on a pulley system where the clothes aired and dried.
Ground Floor Plan
The ground floor was remodelled in the 1830s to form an L-plan entrance hall with open basket arch to the main staircase, the main reception rooms facing the garden at the rear. The north wing houses a service stair and a number of ancilliary spaces with access from the entrance hall and a concealed jib door in the Dining Room. The south wing contains a study and the former library. The rooms have four pannelled doors of the 1830s and decorated running mould cornices of different design in each room. The two main reception rooms having elaborate plaster roses and the drawing room a Lincrusta frieze with cherub decoration. The principal rooms have fireplaces without projecting chimneybreasts.
The ground floor has as its central focus the entrance hall which provides a spaceous reception area.
The outer hall has oak block floor, with an oak mantleplace with wood buring stove. It has a corniced ceiling.
The library had a marble firplace and corniced ceiling.
The study had a wall safe and conriced ceiling.
The drawing room had a marble mantlepiece, ornate ceiling, pine ball room floor with French doors to the lawn at rear.
The dining room also ahd a marble mantle piece and ornate ceiling.
Dining Room Rose
Dining Room Plaster
Drawing Room Rose Centre
Drawing Room Plaster
Drawing Room – Lincrusta Frieze
Fireplace in the Drawing room
First and Second Floors
The first floor is of similar layout to the first, a stud partition forming the west wall of the central corridor. The ceilings of the rooms in the central portion, which form part of the original house, are slightly higher than the wall plate level to maximise the height of the spaces and forming a sloped upper portion of the wall. The ceiling of the main stair has elaborate cornice and ceiling rose. Doors at this level and in the later wings have six pannelled doors of earlier design, suggesting that the addition of the second floors of the wings was carried out, before the re-modelling of the house interior in the 1830s. Internal window joinery is consistent with this, the window at the top of the mains stairs being the only one to conform to the detail of the joinery at the ground and first floor levels.
The first floor had the principal bedroom to the front of the house, over the front door with a fireplace and corniced celing. A door led off to a bathroom and dressing room. There were four more bed rooms on this level.
On the second floor there were four bedrooms and two dressing rooms.
The roof has an internal trough system for disposing of rainwater from the inner roof. The outer water is disposed of through the gutters and down pipes.
The roof is hipped on all four sides and does not show the original form of the house with a central block and wing additions. A parapet gutter runs around all the outer sides and there is a wide central valley of lead, stepped and laid to fall towards the north. The water from the roof is taken through the roof space of the north wing to a down pipe on the west gable. The roof is of common rafters with collar ties. Four chimneys are located in the former gables and a fifth near the centre of the rear of the house are of ashlar stone articulated with cornices and recessed with panels and having decorative pots dating from the 1830s.
To the south of Oldbridge House there is a cobblestone yard with a fine cut stone stable block. The original contained coach houses, stables, and tack and feed rooms. A gateway adjoining the south screen walls leads into the stable court, which is bounded to the north by the main house and to the south by an elongated range of stables. The rear of the stable building forms the north edge of the walled garden. The stables and walled garden are shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1836 which suggests that the house and stables were constructed at the same time. The stable building is long symmetrical two-storey nine bay block with projecting single bay ends forming a shallow U-form, its axis of symmetry being the north-south axis of the house. It had a hipped slated roof of trussed construction. It is built of rubble stone masonry, with flush cut stone quoins and dressings around opens and a plain brick on edge corbel course.
The nine bay central portion facing the yard consists of three groupings. The central group consists of a large basket-arched double leaf door flanked by door openings, with a square central window above. The flanking door to the west has been altered to form a window without damage to the cut stone dressings. The outer two groups consists of a door flanked by square window, with a similar square window above. Internally the block accommodates two stables of different design and date, a central archway space which lead to the walled garden, and has a small stairs up to the coachman’s accommodation in the loft. A loft formerly extended over most of the building.
The upper loft was used for hay and feed storage and also contained the groom’s accommodation.
Henry Barry Coddington made improvements to the adjoining stable block, alterations to the Octagonal Garden and constructed a number of buildings in the walled kitchen garden.
The stable block gives an insight into the eighteenth and nineteenth century horse management. It is built of cut stone of fine stone-work on the windows and doorways. It is laid out with two coach houses at opposing ends of the linear stable block. The main stables housed up to eight horses in five standing stalls and three loose boxes. In its prime, Oldbridge House and stables were a splendid establishment with high-class carriage and riding horses. The building is situated unusually close to the main house, perhaps an indicator of its significance.
The building is of cut stone with some fine ashlar stonework on windows and doors. Originally laid out with two integral coach houses forming the opposite ends of a truncated “C” the building consists of two stories, the ground floor housing stabling, both stalled and loose boxes, a large tack room, a feed room area, separate stallion stables, and storage space in what was once one of the coach houses. The second coach house was converted to stabling, and the doorway filled in. The upper floor was used for hay and feed storage and groom’s accommodation. The outside pavement is cobbled.
The main stables housed up to eight horses in five standing stalls and three loose boxes. The flooring is vitreous “stable brick”, a light coloured glazed brick that was produced in the nineteenth century and used in the place of cobbles, the standard stable floor surface of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Glazed brick surfaces have several advantages; it is impervious to wet, aids drainage and is a non-slip surface. Both the stable areas, the main block and the separate stallion boxes, have integral under-floor drains. All the buildings in the complex have good air flow through ventilation holes built into the walls at just above floor level. The numerous windows provided abundant light and air, both essential for the health of the housed animals.
While the original wood stall dividers were replaced by metal frames in the twentieth century, two of the three loose boxes retain their heavy wooden doors with metal bars and brass horse-proof sliding catches. There are three hemispherical cast iron mangers with wooden rims attached to the walls of the loose boxes. They all have integral tie rings in the front.
The standing stalls, in which horse remained tied up all the time as opposed to the unrestrained loose boxes, were fitted with cast metal feed and hay racks. These are of Victorian design and incorporate a barred hay feeding rack to the left side, a rectangular manger tub to the right with a hole in the centre through which the horse’s tie rope passed from its head collar over a pulley and ended in a “log”, a wooden sphere of about tennis ball size that secured the rope and weighted it so it did not become kinked or knotted. Some of the stalls had small wooden chutes of approximately 2 inches square by 14 inches long attached to the wall at knee height. They also contain a pulley, to carry the rope and the log. The chute arrangement was to prevent the horse getting its feet and legs tangled in the tie rope.
The main stable area was tiled at shoulder height with a band of approximately 24 inches depth of glazed black and white tiles placed in a checkerboard arrangement.
The large tack room was situated towards the centre of the complex. It is wood panelled throughout and originally contained a potbellied type of stove, heat being necessary to keep the leather free from mildew and rot. The flooring was terracotta tile. The majority of the brackets were for carriage harness with only two for riding horses. There was also a multiple driving wheel “reel”, a rack which was designed to keep the top of the coachman’s whips curved and the lashes straight when not in use. A wood panelled cupboard for medications and embrocation was set into the wall.
The central arch of the buildings housed the feed room area, with sacks of grain stored on the upper floor dispensed through chutes to the lower room.
Next to the tack room was separate stabling housing four horses in two large tie stalls and two loose boxes. These stables are floored with cobbles and have under floor drainage with metal grills. They were supplied with a separate feed room overhead with chutes in the ceiling to each of the four boxes. All four stables are wood panelled to shoulder height and have ventilation holes built in to the walls at just above floor level and each has a window. All have the same hemispherical feed pots as the main stables and metal corner racks of a slightly older style. The two loose boxes have stout wood plank walls separating them from the stalls, with metal bars filling the space from about seven feet up to the ceiling. Each loose box has two tie rings at a height of approximately seven feet on opposing walls, allowing horses to be cross tied (tied from both sides of the head simultaneously), a safe way of securing stallions or unruly horses for grooming and harnessing. The two stalls have the same pulley rope and chute arrangements as the main stables. The outside of the building has a number of wrought iron tie rings that were used to tie up horses that were ready for “putting-to” a carriage or mounting for riding. The sliding entrance door to this small stable complex allowed the door to be pulled open or closed easily.
The well in the Stableyard is indicated on the 1909 map. It was covered over by two large iron girders and two massive stone slabs. The cover stones were perforated for a stand pipe. It was re-exposed during work on the cobbled surface after the OPW began restoration. The well was drylined with closely fitted masonry.
The kitchen court lies to the north of the house and forms a sunken courtyard at basement level behind the north quadrant wall. The house bounds it on the south side and by a small building, the Butler’s House, on the north side. The Butler’s House was constructed between 1838 and 1882. The Butler’s House is a well-constructed two-storey, hip roofed building of lime washed random rubble stone, lined internally with brick. The elevations are dressed with fine unpainted projecting cut limestone window and door surrounds and block and start quoins. The fascade is informal having three over three-sash windows to the first floor, and two doors each paired with a window at ground level. Chimney stacks are brick with cut-stone caps. To the east of the house is slighty undercut by a carriageway leading out of the court towards the area at the north of the complex adjoining the canal. Internally there are three service spaces at ground level with low slate surfaces on dwarf walls with tiled splashbacks. There are three servant bedrooms facing to the court at the upper level. The interiors are plain with matched boarded doors, moulded architraves and lime plastered walls and ceilings. The eastern side is a high retaining wall with a large open recess and a coal store. A free-standing spiral staircase of decorative cast iron leads up to a narrow space at ground level behind the quadrant wall.
The haha was constructed in the nineteenth century, appearing on the 1882 OS map but not there in 1836. A haha was used to keep grazing animals out of a formal garden but retaining the parkland vista. It was altered in the 1920s and has a stone bridge.
A haha played an important part in the garden design known as the “English Landscape Style”. It was a clever way to allow a clear open view from the house across the wider landscape while acting as a barrier to grazing animals. A ha-ha, also known as a sunk fence, blind fence, ditch and fence, deer wall, or foss, is a recessed landscape design element that creates a vertical barrier (particularly on one side) while preserving an uninterrupted view of the landscape beyond from the other side. The name comes from viewers’ surprise when seeing the construction.
The Dog Kennel is shown on the OS maps from 1909. It housed gundogs which were owned and bred by the Coddington family. These champion dogs took top prizes in shows in Dublin and Belfast. The Dog Kennels contained four separate kennels with four “runs”. The walls were plastered and had painted wooden panelling on the upper sections. The kennels are surrounded by a low stone wall topped with an iron railing.
A tree fell from the shrubbery outside the walled garden and damaged the roof of the dog kennels.
The rectangular farm building complex lies just off the avenue near the front gates. Within this complex is the Steward’s House, the laundry room, fowl house, wagon house, tack rooms and pigeon house (dovecote).
The pigeon house dates from the eighteenth century. Dovecots were a common feature of monastic life in medieval times. Mellifont held four dovecots all located on monastery property. Dovecots are usually free-standing circular buildings. A straw thatched dovecot is recorded at Duleek as a possession of Llanthony priory.
An excavation in 2014 by Alan Hayden identified the farmyard as the medieval grange. The excavation of a proposed service trench in the farmyard was monitored. Work was halted after only a length of 3m of trenching had been dug as the remains of a robber trench, floor, occupation deposits and demolition rubble from a substantial medieval building were uncovered immediately below the modern yard surface. The services will be laid outside the farmyard to avoid disturbing the early remains.
The farmyard contained two main yards with two entrances – one from the south off the avenue and one from the trackway on the north side. The eastern farmyard was where the farm or stable manager lived along with stable hands. The pigsty was also located in this yard which consisted of a covered area and an open pen. Cart sheds and lofts were in the yard and the forge appears to have been a later addition.
In 1854 there was a woodranger’s house and a ploughman’s house on the estate.
Estate fields produced corn, wheat and rye. Pasture lands fattened cattle and sheep for the markets. The land around Drogheda was particularly good for red wheat, producing large quantities of rye for boiling or seed, with a good deal of oats and barley. Three crops per year were cut from Yellow Island up to 1871.
Gate Lodge and Gates
The gate lodge was located just inside the entrance gates to the estate and consists of a single storey dwelling incorporating entrance hall, living room, pantry, kitchen and three bedrooms.Dean dates the gate pillers to about 1832 when Frederick Darley was employed by Nicholas Coddington to enlarge the house. The 1836 OS map shows an early porter’s lodge incorporated into the entrance. Dean dates the gatelodge to late Victorian period.
Gates about 1984
Regular field boundaries and ornamental woodlands were laid out in the eighteenth century. Fields were bounded by high stone walls. Field names testify to the use of the land, natural occurring features and manmade alterations.
The Pony Field, the Pheasant Field and the Old Cow Field indicate the agricultural usage of each field. Lime Kiln Field and Black Quarry Field indicate features in the field. Dead Man’s Field, King James’s Wood and Pass Wood are linked to historical or local events. The White Field was used for washing laundry. The Greenhills which form part of the escarpment at the front of the house is named for its topographical nature and its arboreal plantings. During the 1960s some of the fields at Oldbridge were enlarged. A number of fieldnames were lost but these names continued to appear on estate maps.
- The Front Lawn
1a The Greenhills
- The Bottom Lawn
- Service Road
- Oldbridge House and Gardens
- Lime Kiln Field/Pony Field
- Old Cow Field
- Bull Paddock/Park
- Cow Field
- House and Gardens
- River Bank and Canal Tow Path
- Island north of Gate Lodge
- Yellow Island
- Grove Island
- Glen Cottage
- King James’ Wood/Pass Wood
- White Quarry Field
- Stoney Field 19a Lodge and Terraced Houses
- The Big Field 20b Access Road
- Glenmore Lawn
- Glenmore Side Field
- Hunting Gate Field 23a Dead Man’s Field
- Field between Glenmore Side Field and River Boyne
- Field between Loughawanny Field and the River Boyne
- 26 Glenmore House
- Reclaimed land
- The Angle Field 29a Sheephouse
- Sheephouse Lawn 30a Loughan Hole
- The Laub Field
- The Hockey Field 32a Mollymore Field 32b The Pheasant Field
- Reclaimed Land
Landscape, Parkland and Trees
From aerial photographs there appear to have been two parallel lines of trees in front of the house screening off the farmyard, but these lines of trees do not appear on any map.
Due to intensive agricultural use areas of natural woodland are confined to the edges of the estate along the river, canal and glacial moraine on the eastern end of the estate. Along the river bank and canal deciduous trees such as beech, sycamore, ash and elm dominate. The three alluvial islands in the river have been colonised by damp woodland mainly willow.
By 1750 Oldbridge House and its demesne were laid out. The formal landscape was overlaid by the new “natural” landscape style. This also resulted in the sweeping away of the remains of Oldbridge village. The village of Oldbridge seems to have still existed in 1770 as it is mentioned in a lease between Dixie and his brother, Henry.
The house itself was built orientated to overlook the Battle of the Boyne site and this would appear to have been a major factor in the location of the house.
The word, landscape, is derived from the Dutch landskip paintings and came into use during the late seventeenth century. inspired by ideas from abroad landowners began designing their own landscapes. By the 1730s most houses of consequence had a tree lined avenue. The serpentine or curved driveway to the house where the house is revealed as you come closer to it. These avenues emphasised the centrality of the house in the landscape while demonstrating ownership of all the lands over which they passed. Creating a grand picturesque approach to Oldbridge House not only highlighted the design of the landscape, but also emphasised the wealth and prestige of the owner
The philosophy behind the English landscape garden was Naturalism, favouring curved lines, gentle slopes, lakes and woodlands, moving away from the strict formal geometric gardens of the Baroque period. These gardens were designed to look natural. Features of this landscaping included wide expanses of smooth grass, dotted with clumps of noble trees, secluded from the outside world by plantation belts and perimeter walls.
While the estate was not sufficiently large to allow for the grand gestures of other large houses of that period the estate lands still contained similar features including woodland and a walled garden within a parkland setting.
The kitchen gardens, invariably walled enclosures were isolated away from the house and usually sited near stables with its ready supply of manure. Estate cottages, gate lodges, farm buildings were treated in an ornamental way.
Sunken fences or hahas date to the period 1750-1840 and permitted un-interrupted prospects of the park from the house.
The woodland setting was both a functional and aesthetic feature in the landscape. The trees served the aesthetic function of framing views from the house and creating a scenic backdrop to the house. Lighter guns enable sportsmen to shoot birds on the wing , so landscapes needed to incorporate areas of cover where game such as pheasant could be reared. Woodlands were used as shelter belts. Shrubbery walks were laid out around Oldbridge. During the 1960s a large number of beech and other trees were felled for commercial purposes.
In 1810 Nicholas Coddington placed a notice in the Dublin Gazette stating that he intended to plant 2,600 larch, 4500 spruce fir, 3950 oak, 3,200 ash, 800 elm and 800 beech trees. Mature trees were valuable, and the ownership of such trees could result in disputes between landlord and tenant. In 1791 the Irish Parliament providing for a large increase in monies to the RDS to be used in premiums to encourage tree-planting. The recording and registration of tenant-planted trees took place at the quarter sessions of the county, were printed in the Government Gazette and entered into a ledger. These ledgers, each called a Register of Trees, have survived. From 1800 to 1850 those who planted trees advertised their plantings in newspapers.
In 1836 Samuel Lewis wrote” Oldbridge is the seat of Henry Barry Coddington Esq. and is situated in an extensive demesne well planted on the lands of the Boyne, a residence called Farm is also property of this gentleman.
One of the trees in Oldbridge in 2000 was the biggest walnut tree in Ireland but this fell about 2005. There are four sweet chestnut trees Casanea sativa which are two hundred years old. It is unusual to have sweet chestnuts of such size and age in Ireland. Closer to walled kitchen garden is a fine red oak Quercus Rubra, a fine example. Further south is a large flowering cherry Prunus Avium, which is possibly the third largest in Ireland.
Behind the stables, in the back garden, is a large Holm Oak, Quercus Ilex Fordia.
In the woodland behind the house there is a variety of different spring flowering bulbs. Earliest to flower are the snowdrops which are followed by waves of daffodils. One unusual variety of narcissus is present. It is the Van Sion or Mr. Wilmer’s giant double daffodil. It was introduced into Britain in 1629 by Vincent Sion, a French Huguenot. Other varieties include Narcissus Pseudonarcissis (the Lent daffodil) which was probably introduced into Ireland by monks from Spain or Portugal. Daffodils are succeeded by bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, in pink, cream and blue colours. White starry wood anemones in single and double form carpet the woodland floor. They are slow to spread and grow from a rhizome which creeps underground.
To the east of the walled garden is a deep depression bounded by mature ash trees. It was suggested that this feature was man-made and was considered to possible be an eighteenth century amphitheatre but it is not stepped or tiered. This is more likely a place for extraction of gravel.
Throughout the twentieth century the Coddingtons ran a commercial pheasant shoot at Oldbridge. A gamekeeper was employed and lived on the estate. The bird runs were sold to Lord Mountcharles of Slane Castle.
Throughout the years the estate was well known for its shoots with the plentiful supply of pheasants and other game birds which populated the extensive estate. In 1984 the Coddingtons said “It has the potential to become one of the finest game shoots in Ireland.”
Oldbridge Village is located a quarter of a mile from the main house just off the Duleek road. It consists of two two-storey semi-detached stone buildings located on the northern and southern side respectively of an enclosed courtyard area. The northern side is bounded by two single storey cottages. The typical house layout is living room, kitchen, sitting room at ground floor level and two bedrooms at first floor level. Two of the village dwellings were in the ownership of the estate in 1984.
Sheephouse village consists of a terrace of five two storey dwellings located just off the Duleek Road. Four of them were in estate ownership in 1984. The accommodation of a typical building is living room, sitting room and kitchen at ground floor level and two bedrooms at first floor level.
Well Groggins field
Stile River Walk