Initially, as Archbishop Charles Cobbe’s country retreat, Newbridge House was sparsely furnished and modestly decorated. This all changed when it was inherited by his son, Thomas, and his glamourous wife, Lady Betty. Together they grew the collection, adding china, sculptures and bespoke Irish furniture.
Fine examples of Irish craftsmanship can be seen throughout the house and in the dining room’s ornate stuccowork and matching mahogany side tables in particular.
The Cobbe Cabinet of Curiosities is a treat for all ages. This family museum is filled with shells, corals, fossils, taxidermy, chinoiserie, and even some Captain Cook memorabilia. There is also a significant collection of 19th century Indian souvenirs from many relatives serving in the military.
Downstairs, the servants quarters and historic Georgian kitchen allow visitors to imagine the hectic workload involved in running a house of this size (and witness the labour-saving devices of the past!).
The Shakespeare Connection
For almost 250 years two portraits hung in the Drawing Room at Newbridge. One was believed to be a distant relative, Lady Anne Norton, and the other believed to be Sir Walter Raleigh. In recent decades, the portrait of Lady Anne was discovered to in fact be the earliest known portrait, not of a woman, but a male ancestor: Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton and the only known patron of William Shakespeare.
Even more extraordinary, today the picture originally believed to be Sir Walter Raleigh, or the ‘Cobbe portrait’ as it is known, is widely accredited by scholars as the only portrait of Shakespeare himself that could have been done from life, all later portraits and engravings of him baring some similarity with the Cobbe version.
While the Shakespeare portrait has returned home to England, there are many treasures from the Cobbe art collection to be discovered on a tour of the house.