An exhibition in the Irish Georgian Society

High Summer, Burtown House and Gardens, County Kildare, oil on canvas, by Lesley Fennell.

Today an exhibition opened in the City Assemby House in South William Street in Dublin, the home of the Irish Georgian Society, of paintings of walled gardens of Ireland. The exhibition coincides with a television documentary about walled gardens airing this Sunday on RTE. There will also be a conference in May 2022 about the Irish country house garden, along with another exhibition, and a book edited by Finola O’Kane-Crimmins on the same subject.

https://www.igs.ie/updates/article/igs-year-of-the-country-house-garden

Burtown Gardens, which I visited this summer with Stephen and our friend Gary – the house is listed in Section 482 so we’ll be visiting it again at some point. It is the home of the artist Lesley Fennell.

The exhibition features the work of four artists, all owners of big houses: Lesley Fennell of Burtown, County Kildare; Andrea Jameson of Tourin, County Waterford; Alison Rosse of Birr Castle, County Offaly; and Maria Levinge of Clohamon, County Wexford. All of the houses but the last are on the Section 482 listing this year.

Many walled gardens are pictured, and I was delighted to recognise some.

Enniscoe, County Mayo, by Maria Levinge. Oil on board. We visited Enniscoe this year and had a wonderful tour with owner Susan Kellett, who brought history to life as if she had been present, such as when she told us of the 1798 visit of French soldiers to the house.
Maria Levinge’s painting captures the pink Enniscoe House in the background of her painting.
The walled garden of Enniscoe House, which contains a museum. As the house is also on the Section 482 list, I’ll be writing about it soon.

I will be invigilating the exhibition on Wednesday 29th September 10:00 – 1:30, along with some other dates, and was there today. The launch was last night, and I was delighted that some of the artists dropped in today while I was there.

Robert O’Byrne curated the exhibition and introduced the invigilators to the work. During the year the Georgian Society ran a programme of interviews with the artists, by Robert O’Byrne, and these are available to watch at the exhibition.

My photographs, taken on my phone rather than with my Canon camera, do not do justice to the paintings.

The Formal Gardens, Birr Castle, by Alison Rosse.

We visited Birr Castle in 2019 and I took the same view as that painted above!

The Formal Gardens were designed by Anne, Countess of Rosse, on her marriage in 1935, in the form of a monastic cloister, complete with windows, cut into the hornbeam hedge.

According to the small catalogue, which is available for purchase, there are about 8,000 walled gardens in Ireland! The exhibition features about thirty different walled gardens, some public and some private.

Lissadell, County Sligo, by Maria Levinge. Oil on board. We drove right up to the gates of Lissadell last month but unfortunately it is not open to the public this year due to Covid, so we will have to visit another time!

Many Section 482 houses featured in this blog have walled gardens. Most recently, I wrote about Killineer in County Louth, which is not in this exhibition. Barmeath, also in Louth, and Cappoquin in County Waterford, are included, as well as Lodge Park and Larchill in Kildare, both of which are listed in Section 482 and which I have yet to visit.

I like this one by Maria Levinge of the garden at IMMA, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, as it also pictures the relatively newly built apartments in the background, which I often pass on my way to the Memorial Gardens.

I think Robert Wilson-Wright was digging the pond featured in Lesley Fennell’s painting of Coolcarrigan, on the day that we visited!

The Pond at Coolcarrigan, County Kildare, by Lesley Fennell. Oil on canvas.
Coolcarrigan, County Kildare, September 2019.

I didn’t realise that the splendid greenhouse at Woodstock, County Kilkenny, which we visited last month, is not the original Turner-built one, but a reproduction of it.

The greenhouse at Woodstock, County Kilkenny.
The Turner conservatory at Woodstock, County Kilkenny by Lesley Fennell. Oil on canvas.

I particularly liked the painting that Andrea Jameson did of herself struggling to paint “en pleine aire” in the wind in her garden in Tourin.

Andrea Jameson painting in her garden at Tourin, self-portrait. Oil on canvas.

The painters paint their own gardens, and each others’. Gardens featured which are open to the public include Lismore Castle in Waterford, Altamont in Carlow, Kilmacurragh in County Wicklow, Heywood in County Laois (my father remembers seeing the fire which burnt down the house!), Doneraile in County Cork, and Russborough, which I didn’t know has a walled garden.

Adamnan Lodge, Birr, County Offaly by Alison Rosse. Oil on board.
Red Geranium, Greenhouse, Tourin, by Andrea Jameson. Oil on canvas.

Some of the gardens are in Northern Ireland, such as at Glenarm and Crom Castle.

Stephen and I have been lucky enough to visit many walled gardens in our explorations of Section 482 properties, and have many more still to visit. We toured rather extensively around Ireland during Heritage Week this year and I have lots to write that I hope to publish soon!

Killineer House, County Louth

Drogheda, Co. Louth

Charles & Eithne Carroll

Tel: 041-9838563, 086-2323783

www.killineerhouse.ie

Open dates in 2021 but check due to Covid-19 restrictions: Feb 1-20, May 1-15, June 1-10, Aug 14-28, 9am-1pm

Fee: house: €4, garden €6

Stephen and I visited Killineer on Saturday June 9th, one of our first houses to visit once Covid restrictions eased. I like the drive up along the M1 motorway, over the Mary McAleese bridge. The house has entrance gates.

My trusty little car leaving Killineer after our visit.
The gate lodge, also built in 1836. It has the same Majolica style medallion as on the farm buildings behind the house.

The house is a Regency house, that is, of the Classical style built shortly after the period in England when George IV was Prince Regent (1811-1820, when King George III was ill). Like many Regency houses, it has a stucco facade and columns framing the front door, with a Doric single-storey portico.

The house was built for a local businessman, George Harpur, who made his fortune in trade, dealing in salt and timber. He would have availed of the nearby port to bring in his salt, and timber from Canada. Salt was used to preserve meats and was a precious commodity. Harper married Louisa Ball in 1835, daughter of George Ball (1755-1842) of Ballsgrove, County Louth, and his wife Sarah Webber. 

Ballsgrove, County Louth, built in 1734, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Killineer house was completed in 1836. The front, of two storeys, has six bays on top and a Doric single-storey portico flanked by two bays on either side. The corners have double-height pilasters. The house has a basement and the back is of three storeys. The sides are of three bays, with entablatures over the ground floor windows.

Side of the house, with the original French door, and the farm buildings in the background.

Harpur surrounded the house with seventeen acres of garden, creating terraces and a lake which on the site of an earlier rough pond. A house already stood on the property, the remains of which are in the walled garden behind the current house.

The remains of the previous house built at Killineer, now in use as a tool shed. One can still see remains of the panelled walls and dentil cornice inside. [1]

The earlier house, now located in the walled garden behind the house, may have been built by George Pentland (1770-1834), who owned the property before Harpur, before he moved to Blackhall in 1815, which was begun in approximately 1790 by a fellow solicitor, Philip Pendleton. [2] Before that, the land was owned by Thomas Taylour of Headfort House, County Meath.

Black Hall, County Louth. Picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Casey and Rowan (1993) suggest that the house is in a ‘style greatly reminiscent of Francis Johnston.’ 
Headfort House, County Meath, photograph by A.E. Henson, from Country Life, volume LXXIX, published 21/03/1936The house was built in the early 1770s by Irish architect George Semple with the interiors designed by Robert Adam. [3]

The Harpurs had no children and the house was sold, probably after George Harpur died in 1888. Unfortunately, any record of the plans for the house or garden have been lost, so neither the architect nor the creator of the garden has been identified.

The house passed through several owners until the present family, including Robert Ussher, and the Montgomery family of Beaulieu, County Louth. Richard Thomas Montgomery (1813-1890) of Beaulieu had a son, Richard Johnston Montgomery, who lived in Killineer house when he was High Sheriff of County Louth in 1910. Perhaps he lived at Killineer until he inherited Beaulieu. He married Maud Helena Collingwood Robinson of Rokeby Hall, another Section 482 property in Louth. 

Beaulieu, County Louth [see my blog entry].
Rokeby, County Louth [see my blog entry].

James Carroll, ancestor of the current owner, purchased the house in 1938. He was the grandson of Patrick James Carroll, a tobacco manufacturer from Dundalk. James’s daughter Grace lived in Killineer all of her life and never married. She died in 1999, and the house passed to her cousin, the current owner. 

According to her obituary in the Irish Times, Grace became involved with the Order of Malta, of which her father had been president. She was the first woman in this country to be appointed Dame Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion, Sovereign Military Hospitaller, Order of Malta. This was in recognition of her work and fundraising for those with disabilities in Drogheda. She was instrumental in helping fund The Village, a training centre for those with special needs, built in the former Presentation Convent. [4]

She maintained the gardens laid out by George Harpur, and they were featured in Country Life in 1998. We enjoyed a wander in the lovely gardens after the owner Charles Carroll gave us a tour inside.

The view of the gardens from the front of the house.

The house has an impressive octagonal entry hall, with niches and busts on plinths. It has four doors that look as if they lead off the hall, but two are only for symmetry and do not open. The house itself has a classical layout of four rooms plus the hall on the ground floor, a basement, and the bedrooms above. It has an “imperial” staircase – a staircase which bifurcates into two. A lovely stained glass window of browns, blues and yellows, made by Edward Lowe  of Dublin who also did the windows in Collon’s Church of Ireland, has the Carroll coat of arms in the middle. [5] Below the stairs, in a door, is another stained glass window, with a knight with a lion, which might also have been installed by the Carrolls.

The back of the house, with the stained glass window that lights the stairs.

The Carrolls are an ancient Irish family that can be traced back to the Carrolls of Oriel. Oriel was an area of Ireland. Donogh O’Carroll, King of Oriel, died in 1168 AD and the Carrolls of Oriel are his descendants. Patrick Carroll of Culcredan, County Louth, was born in 1600. The Carrolls of Killineer branch off from the main line of “the O’Carroll Oriel” after this Patrick Carroll. [6] [7]

We entered the dining room first and sat down under a portrait of Grace to hear a little about the history of the house. The windows are French doors, and the room is panelled. It originally had a ceiling with a seascape of Neptune, but unfortunately the house was left empty for two years before the Carrolls purchased it and the ceiling was ruined. The ceiling now features a “very attractive bold circle of plasterwork in the centre of the ceiling,” as Mark Bence-Jones describes it. [8]

The plasterwork in the house is impressive. There are about five layers of cornice patterns around the ceiling in the study, such as ovals and egg-and-dart, and the rooms have wood-like plaster panelled walls. The rooms are decorated in a French empire style of gilt and a deep rose colour. Charles pointed out that some of the plasterwork over the doors may have been added later, as it is a little too ornate and does not quite fit with the rest of the plasterwork. 

The fourth room on the ground floor has been divided in two, probably after the house was built. The pattern around the ceiling continues in both rooms, and features griffons and centaurs and is coloured wine red, pale blue and pink. An unusual sculpted ceiling depicts the figure of Justice, doves, and a figure with a lyre. 

A summer-house in the garden is designed to mirror the architecture of the house, and was probably also built by George Harpur.

It has windows and French doors on each side, and inside, it has plaster coving and niches.

The reeded doorcases with corner blocks carved with rosettes match the doorcases inside the main house.

The wrought iron bridge onto an island in the man-made lake is also contemporary with the house. [9]

Stretching from the house, the garden is terraced. It leads down through a canopy to a laurel maze and lawn laid out in an astragal pattern, to the lake, where a swan was guarding a nest. The lakes, created by George Harpur, are lined with a special yellow clay, which is very fine and hard, so it holds in the water particularly well. Yellow clay is impermeable and can be used to prevent damp in houses.

The astragal shaped lawn.
Woodland walk, below the lake, and the wild garden nearby.
Eighteenth century gates which were originally located on an estate belonging to the Jocelyn family, Earls of Roden.
The lily pond.

Behind the house lies the walled garden from the original house at Killineer. It is still in active use today producing fruits and vegetables. It has a glasshouse in which apricot, peach and nectarine trees grow, and an apiary that houses bees who pollinate the plants. 

Entrance to the walled garden.

The attractive farm buildings are off-limits to visitors due to dangerous farm machinery.

The lush gardens were a treat after months of lockdown in Dublin. They were so peaceful, such an oasis from the everyday bustle. They remind us to stop, linger, and appreciate.

[1] https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/06/13/in-the-good-old-summertime/

Robert O’Byrne notes that: A century earlier the land here had been granted by the local corporation on a 999-year lease to Sir Thomas Taylor, whose family lived at Headfort, County Meath. It then passed to the Pentlands whose main residence was to the immediate east at Blackhall. At some date in the 18th century a house was built on the property: it appears on early maps but little now remains other than one room which still retains sections of plaster panelling. Located to the rear of the walled garden, this space now serves as a toolshed. 

[2] See https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13902207/black-hall-co-louth 

and the Killineer House & Gardens website.

It’s interesting that George Pentland’s son, George Henry Pentland (1800-1882), married Sophia Mabella Montgomery, of Beaulieu, since after George Harpur died, Killineer was owned by one of the Montgomery family from Beaulieu.

See:

http://www.termonfeckinhistory.ie/pentlands_of_blackhall_34.html 

George Henry Pentland (1800-1882) married twice, once to Rebecca Brabazon and secondly to Sophia Mabella Montgomery, daughter of Rev. Alexander and Margaret Johnston. George Henry Pentland lived at Black Hall, Co Louth, as did his father George Pentland (1770-1834).  

[3] https://www.countrylifeimages.co.uk/Image.aspx?id=e3bd0c95-193a-4aad-8e06-f9d2165c4e5b&rd=2|headfort||1|20|18|150 

[4] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/grand-generous-lady-of-the-old-school-1.252377 

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/building-of-the-month/collon-church-collon-church-street-collon-td-collon-county-louth/

The church was erected thanks to the Foster family of Collon, County Louth and of Glyde Court, whom we came across in their association with Cabra Castle in County Cavan.

[6] http://www.carrolloforiel.com/the-ocarroll-oriel/

[7] http://www.thepeerage.com/p36339.htm#i363390

[8] Mark Bence-Jones. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[9] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Killineer%20House

Too busy!

I have four hats: my pharmacist/vaccinator “hat,” my blogger hat, my farmer hat (see the photo of my harvest from yesterday) and my landlady hat! I am so busy at the moment, as my tenants left the apartment so I have been doing that up before renting out again (see my first ever tiling work). I only manage a terraced house and a two bedroom flat, but it keeps me so busy, I can only imagine what it is like to have to maintain a Big House! So my blogger hat has taken a back seat for awhile, despite having managed to visit a few Section 482 properties since lockdown lifted. Here is a taster of what is to come, when I finally get the time to write my blogs…the beautiful gardens of Killineer House in County Louth, and the astounding upper gallery of Stradbally Hall in County Laois.

Stradbally Hall, County Laois.
Gardens at Killineer House, County Louth.
My abundant allotment harvest from 7th July 2021: broad beans, broccoli, red currants, strawberries, a courgette, rhubarb, Toscana de Nero kale, grand big beetroot, and not pictured, a few peas and about six lovely large onions!
I’ve been doing up the flat, and tried my hand at tiling! Here is the result. If you know anyone who’d like to rent a two bedroom flat in Donnybrook, send me a message! It’s on the pricey side at €2100 per month, but it has two double bedrooms (one with a king size bed, other has a regular double bed), a back patio that gets the sun, and a parking space.