[Extract from Mausolea in Ulster by James Stevens Curl, published by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society in 1978.]
There is... an astounding array of funerary monuments in the parish churchyard of Knockbreda. Four large mausolea were built there in the last two decades of the eighteenth century by worthies of Belfast and the surrounding area. These mausolea are all square on plan and have elegant Adamesque arrangements of classical columns, pilasters, and entablatures. Above the crowning cornices are inventive superstructures of domes, pyramids, obelisks, and urns. These mausolea comprise the oddest and finest of buildings in the genre in Ulster, and cannot be surpassed architecturally as a group of mausolea.
The most ornate of the Knockbreda mausolea is the Greg tomb
of the last decade of the eighteenth century, although the contemporary
Waddell Cunningham Douglas tomb, with its superstructure of urns,
pyramids, and other classical elements, is almost as elaborate.
These mausolea are sumptuous, yet refined; ostentatious, yet delicate.
The smaller Rainey tomb is topped by four elongated pyramids,
by an octagonal cap with concave sides, and by a crowning urn.
All these mausolea are undoubtedly by the same hand, and may have
had their origins in the pattern-books of tombs that were current
at the time. It is tempting to associate the Rococo genius of
an architect of the stature of Mulholland with these glorious
mausolea. There is no evidence for such speculations, however,
and we must be content to see these wonderfully inventive mausolea
in gnockbreda as part of a pattern that had emerged in burial
fashions in the European cemeteries in India. Indeed, the nearest
models for the elaborate tombs in Knockbreda, to the best of my
knowledge, are the memorials in Surat and in the South Parks cemetery
Knockbreda is particularly interesting because it was a fashionable place of burial, and so contains a number of ambitious mausolea erected by the elite of the era. High walls, with architectural arrangements framing the inscription-panels are also found, with the burial-plot itself fenced in by cast-iron railings. This type of tomb was favoured by the Lindsay Coates family, and by Sir Charles Lanyon, whose Gothic monument lies to the east of the church. One of the earliest classical examples in Ulster of an architectural frame- work for the memorial is found in the Wolfenden tomb at Lambeg of 1693. Another fashionable churchyard is that or Holy Trinity, Drumbo, in the townland of Ballylesson. This churchyard contains the massive mausoleum of Narcissus Batt of Purdysburn and his family, dating from the 1848. This mausoleum is about four metres square on plan,with three marble inscription-panels on each side. It is capped by a column and urn-finial.
[Note: A few years after this was written, several of the
Knockbreda monuments were bulldozed as part of an exercise in
tidying up the graveyard. Sir Charles Lanyon's more two-dimensional
monument has however survived.]
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