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Powerscourt House & Gardens

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  • Name: Powerscourt House & Gardens
  • Address: Enniskerry, Co Wicklow
  • Phone Number: 01 204 6000

The gardens at Powerscourt were laid out in two main periods. When the house was rebuilt in the decade after 1731, the surrounding grounds were also remodelled. The design reflected the desire to create a garden which was part of the wider landscape. To the north formal tree plantations framed the vista from the house, while a walled garden, fish pond, cascades, grottos and terraces lay to the south. Walks wound through the wooded grounds and a fine tree lined avenue was created. A century later the 6th Viscount Powerscourt instructed his architect, Daniel Robertson, to draw up new schemes for the gardens.

Robertson was one of the leading proponents of Italianate garden design which was influenced by the terraces and formal features of Italian Renaissance villas and perfected in gardens in France and Germany. Robertson designed the terrace nearest the house. He is said to have suffered from gout and directed operations from a wheelbarrow, fortified by a bottle of sherry. When the sherry was finished, work ceased for the day!

The death of the 6th Viscount in 1844 meant that alterations to the gardens ceased until his son resumed the work in the late 1850s. Using a combination of Robertson's designs and the plans of the other landscape experts, the terraces were completed, enormous numbers and varieties of trees were planted and the ground adorned with an amazing collection of statuary, ironwork and other decorative items. By the time of his death in 1904, the 7th Viscount had transformed the Estate. Further generations of the Wingfields maintained the grounds, adding the Japanese Gardens, Pepper Pot Tower and continuing to plant specimen trees. In 1961 the Estate passed to the Slazenger family, under whose aegis the Gardens received much more care and attention.

Today the public continue to enjoy the gardens which first began to take shape over two and a half centuries ago. The charming walled garden, the striking terraces, fine statuary and varied trees are linked by carefully designed walks and set in the magnificent surroundings of the Wicklow mountains.

800 years of History at Powerscourt

Where Powerscourt House stands today there was once a 13th century medieval castle, owned by the Le Power Family from which ‘Powerscourt’ takes its name. Powerful Irish families including the O’Tooles and the Fitzgeralds battled for possession of the castle and its lands over the succeeding centuries. In 1609 a new era began at Powerscourt, when Richard Wingfield was granted Powerscourt Castle and its lands as a reward for his military achievements by Queen Elizabeth. The story goes that Marshall Wingfield visited Queen Elizabeth after battle to pay his respects. The Queen said to him: “Well Sir Richard, what is to be your reward?” He bowed, and said “The scarf that Your Majesty wears will be sufficient reward for me.” Upon which the Queen placed the scarf over his shoulder. In addition to the scarf, Richard was knighted and received Powerscourt Estate as his reward. His descendants were to remain at Powerscourt for over 350 years.

Palladian Influences at Powerscourt

In 1730 the 1st Viscount Powerscourt (of the third creation) commissioned the architect Richard Castle to build Powerscourt House, a 68 room mansion which was completed in 1741. The mansion was designed around the medieval castle in the style of Palladian architecture which is based on the formal classical temple architecture of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The north front was adapted to present a grand entrance in the Palladian manner, while the south and front faced the gardens and were initially only two storeys in height. An extra storey was added in 1787 and further major alterations were made in the late 19th century. The house contained some of the finest 18th century interiors in Ireland and was one of the country's most beautiful mansions.

Tragedy at Powerscourt

Tragically in the early hours of 4th November 1974 a fire broke out on the top floor of Powerscourt House and by the morning the main part of the house was a roofless shell. No one was injured, but all of the principal reception rooms and bedrooms were destroyed. The walls of the main house, revealing stonework dating back to the 16th century, stood as a stark reminder of the fire for over twenty years.