Newbridge Demesne is an early 18th-century Georgian estate and mansion situated in north County Dublin, Ireland. It was built by Archbishop Charles Cobbe in 1736 and remained the family home of the Irish Cobbe family until 1985 when it was acquired by Fingal County Council in a unique arrangement with the family.
Set within 400 acres of partially wooded park, Newbridge House is one of the finest surviving examples of Georgian architecture.
On June 19, 1736, Charles Cobbe, then Bishop of Kildare, paid £5,526.5.6 for the townlands of Donabate, Lainstown, Haggardstown and Newbridge, containing 490 acres. However Bishop Cobbe had a prior interest in these lands, having come to the financial assistance of the Weyms family (port owners) some years earlier. when they had difficulty in repaying a mortgage taken out on the lands. On 21 July 1742 Bishop Cobbe made his second purchase of lands in the parish. These consisted of the townlands of Kilcreagh, Corballis and Baltra, containing in all 510 acres. The purchase price was £6,425.00. As with the first purchase the Cobbe interest came into being through the owner, Maurice Keating, having difficulty in repaying a mortgage. The final purchase of land by the Cobbe family was made in 1811, when Charles purchased the fields north of Newbridge Demesne and bordering on Turvey Avenue.
The Archbishop was succeeded by his son, Thomas, who in 1751 married Lady Elizabeth Beresford, daughter of the Earl of Tyrone. She brought a wealth with her, thus enabling major improvements to be made to the house. In the Red Drawing Room, added by them, they lavishly entertained and hung many of their superb pictures purchased on their behalf by the incumbent of Donabate Church, the Rev. Matthew Pilkington, who was well qualified to do the buying, as it was he who composed the first major English Dictionary of Painters.
Their eldest son Charles died in 1798 and the eldest grandson, also Charles became heir apparent. He joined the army, served in India and returned to Bath in 1805. Four years later he married Frances Conway and immediately went to live at Newbridge where he carried out much refurbishing with the aid of his wife's wealth. It appears that during the family's absence in Bath the Estate had become run down. Charles' considerable energies were used to build it up again. He threw down the "wretched mud cabins" occupied by his tenants and built new houses on his estate which were paid for by the sale of some of the family's most prized paintings, i.e., The Gastor Poussin and a Hobbema. Charles Cobbe died in 1857 and was succeeded by his son, another Charles. He, in turn died in 1886 leaving no male issue - his estate passing to his wife for her lifetime. Prior to her death she had persuaded Thomas Maberley Cobbe, a grandnephew of her late husband, to return to Newbridge from America to take over the demesne. He died young in 1914 leaving two infant children, namely Thomas and Francis, the latter dying in 1949. Thomas did not marry and on his death in 1985 was succeeded by Francis' family, Hugh, Alec and Mary. While the property has now been acquired by the County Council, the Cobbe family will continue to reside at Newbridge House from time to time, due to a unique arrangement which had been entered into between the family and the County Council.
Newbridge House was built by Archbishop Cobbe between 1747 and 1752 to the design of the renowned architect, James Gibbs. Newbridge is extremely rare in that it still contains most of its original furniture. The interiors include the Red Drawing Room (one of the finest Georgian interiors in Ireland), the Museum of Curiosities (one of the few family museums in Ireland or Britain) and the ornate plasterwork found throughout the house.
The Cobbe Portrait is an unattributed panel painting of William Shakespeare painted from life, believed by some to be the only surviving painting of Shakespeare. Support for this theory is drawn from the inheritance of the portrait by the Cobbe family from Shakespeare's patron, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, and its resemblance to the Janssen portrait, a long-standing candidate to be a portrait of Shakespeare. Scientific examination has dated the panel and paint used to Shakespeare's lifetime, but the claim that it is of Shakespeare has been regarded with scepticism.
From 1736 until 1985, Newbridge Estate served as the ancestral home of the Cobbe family.
Estate and farm
Newbridge Demesne opened as a County Dublin Regional Park in 1986. It consists of approximately 400 acres of gently undulating pastureland, woodland, watercourses and pleasure grounds.
The estate still maintains a small farm, including a fine, square cobbled courtyard adjoining the house that was designed by Robert Mack, and built about 1790 after the completion of the main house.
- Charlotte Higgins (2009-03-11). "To find the mind's construction in the face: The great Shakespeare debate". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-01-17.