contact: Sarah Slazenger
Open in 2023: Jan 1-Dec 24, 27-31, house and garden, 9.30am-5.30pm, ballroom and garden
Fee: Mar-Oct, adult €12.50, OAP €9.50, student €9, child €5, family ticket 2 adults
and 3 children under 18 years €28, Nov-Dec, adult €9, OAP €8, student €7.50, child
€4, family ticket 2 adults and 3 children under 18 years €20
I haven’t revisited Powerscourt Estate this year but I have been there many times, and as the lockdown continues for Covid 19, I will write another entry from previous visits and research. I want to write about Powerscourt in continuation of our Wingfield run!
It used to be that one went to the estate to see the 47 acres of landscaped gardens, since the house was gutted by fire in November, 1974, and remained closed for many years. The fire was probably due to a chimney fire that ignited. Since then, it has been gradually renovated. The Slazenger family, living in the house at the time of the fire, moved into a section of the wing that was not destroyed by the fire. Nowadays inside is a shopping mecca and lovely Avoca cafe, with a growing exhibition about Powerscourt estate itself. My family has been visiting Powerscourt estate since I was a child. The ultimate in romantic, with terraces, groves of trees, stone sculptures, nooks, the mossy labyrinth in the Japanese gardens, the “secret” boat house with its view onto the surface of the lake, and the Versailles-like Neptune fountain, the memory of its purple and grey dampness was an aesthetic touchstone for me when I lived in hot, dry, bright, Perth and California.
In 1974, David Hicks tells us in his Irish Country Houses, a Chronicle of Change, only months before the fire, Stanley Kubrick filmed Barry Lyndon in the house, and the film shows the interiors of the house before they were destroyed.
The estate is named after previous owners of the land, the Powers, or Le Poers. The site was a strategic military position for the Anglo-Normans in the 12th century, and by 1300 the Le Poers had built a castle there. In 1609 the land was granted to Richard Wingfield, Marshall of Ireland.
Richard (1697-1751) 1st Viscount Powerscourt (of 3rd creation) built Powerscourt, designed by Richard Castle (or Cassells) in 1728.
In 1961 the estate was sold by the 9th Viscount, Mervyn Patrick Wingfield, to Mr. Ralph Slazenger, and the Slazenger family still own it.  The same family owned Durrow Abbey near Tullamore in County Offaly (which they purchased in 1950, but it now belongs to the OPW). 
According to the Dictionary of Irish Biography, Wingfield, Sir Richard (1551?–1634), 1st Viscount Powerscourt and soldier, was eldest son of Sir Richard Wingfield, governor of Portsmouth, and his wife Christian Fitzwilliam of Milton. He was born into a family with a strong martial tradition: his brothers and uncles bore arms for the crown in the Low Countries, France, and Ireland. He came to Ireland c.1573 to serve as a soldier under his uncle Sir William Fitzwilliam (1526-1599) who was twice Lord Deputy of Ireland. Richard then returned to fight overseas but returned to Ireland, where he fought with the rebel forces of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone.
On 27 January 1600 he was made marshal of the Irish army and was a member of the Irish privy council by 24 March. He played a key role in organising the royal army during the latter part of the Nine Years War.
He played a prominent role in both the siege and battle of Kinsale in late 1601. He was granted the lands of Rebane, Queen’s County, in March 1602. After the final suppression of the rebellion, he was granted in October 1603 a 21-year lease of the district of Ferncullen (formerly held by the O’Tooles) in north Co. Wicklow. He established his residence there at Powerscourt castle. 
Richard Wingfield appealed to James I for the land in order to secure the district from the incursions of native Irish lords and the families who had previously occupied the land, such as the O’Tooles.  In 1609 the King granted him full ownership.
He also received 1,000 acres at Ballnabarney as part of the Wexford plantation in November 1613. He sat as MP for Downpatrick in the 1613–15 parliament after being rejected by the largely Scottish electorate of Co. Down, acting as one of the chief government spokesmen in the house of commons. On 1 February 1619 he was created Viscount Powerscourt, having paid £2,000. He died on 9 September 1634. [see (4)]
He had no children so his cousin Edward Wingfield (d. 1638) succeeded him. Although they are both Wingfields they were actually cousins through the Cromwell line. Richard had married Frances Rugge, widow of 3rd Baron Cromwell. Edward Wingfield married Anne Cromwell, daughter of the 3rd Baron Cromwell and Frances Rugge.
Edward Wingfield and Anne Cromwell had two sons: Lewis and Richard (d. 1644).
Richard (d. 1644), married Elizabeth Folliott daughter of Henry, 1st Lord Folliott, Baron of Ballyshannon, and they had a son Folliott Wingfield (1642-1717) who was created 1st Viscount Powerscourt in 1664/65. Folliott married Elizabeth, daughter of Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery. On his death, his title became extinct as they had no children.
The other son of Edward Wingfield and Anne Cromwell, Lewis, had a son Edward (d. 7 January 1728). Edward lived at Powerscourt, and was MP for County Wicklow. I suspect he moved to Powerscourt when Folliott Wingfield died. He married Eleanor Gore, daughter of Arthur, 1st Baronet Gore, of Newtown Gore, Co. Mayo. Their son Richard (1697-1751) was created 1st Viscount Powerscourt, of Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow in 1733/34. Their daughter Isabella married Henry King, 3rd Baronet of Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon [we will come across the King family when I write about King House in County Roscommon, a section 482 property.] Their daughter Sidney married Acheson Moore of County Tyrone. 
Richard (1697-1751) 1st Viscount Powerscourt was MP for Boyle, County Roscommon between 1727 and 1744, and was created a Privy Counsellor in 1746. He married twice. His first wife was Dorothy Ussher, daughter of William Ussher of Ussher’s Quay in Dublin. She died childless in 1723, and then he married Dorothy Rowley, daughter of Hercules Rowley of Summerhill, County Meath.
It was Richard, who built the Powerscourt house we see today. He incorporated some of the old building into a new residence he had built in 1728. According to Sean O’Reilly in Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life, the 1974 fire exposed the fabric of the history of the house. He writes:
“The original structure consisted of a low range incorporated in the two bays to the left of the entrance. This appears to have been a long, two-storey, rectangular block, raised to a third storey in later development, and retaining, in one corner, a cross-shaped angle-loop. The vaulted room on the ground floor in this range survived into later remodellings. This earliest block, which dates from no later than the fifteenth century, was extended by a connecting block now incorporated in the garden front and, finally, by a third rectangular range fronted by the two bays on the right of the entrance, creating a U-plan.” 
The Wicklow house built for Richard Wingfield, who was a Member of Parliament and whose descendant had Powerscourt Townhouse in Dublin built, was designed by Richard Castle (or Cassels), who had worked with Edward Lovett Pearce. Both Lovett Pearce and Cassels favoured the Palladian style, and Cassels took over all of Lovett Pearce’s commissions after his untimely death aged just 34. Cassels worked on Carton, designed Russborough House (another section 482 house https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/08/russborough-house-blessington-county-wicklow/ ) and Leinster House.
Powerscourt consists of a three storey centre block (see photograph above) joined by single-storey links to two storey wings, in the Palladian style. Borrowing from Mark Bence Jones’s description in his Irish Country Houses, the centre block has nine bays and the entrance front is made of granite.  There is a five bay breakfront in the centre of the middle block front facade, with a pediment of six Ionic pilasters (Ionic pillars have scrolls) standing on the bottom storey, which is, according to Bence-Jones, treated as a basement, and rusticated (rustication is the use of stone blocks with recessed joints and often with rough or specially treated faces, which is generally confined to the basement or lower part of a building). (see ) The pediment contains the arms of Richard Wingfield and his wife Dorothy Rowley.
Between the pilasters on the breakfront are rondels containing busts of Roman emperors, and a female in the centre rondel. The 7th Viscount called the bust in the middle “Empress Julia” after his wife. He purchased the busts of Caesar in London. They came from Maidenhead, Buckinghamshire, and once belonged to the Duke of Sussex.
The four bay links as well as the central block have balustraded parapets. The wings have four bays, and the facade is prolonged beyond them by quadrant walls, each interrupted by a pedimented Doric arch and ending in an obelisk carrying an eagle, the Wingfield crest. 
The garden front, pictured above, has seven bays between two bows on either end, and the bows are topped with copper domes. One side has a two storey wing. The garden slopes down to a lake in a magnificent series of terraces. Powerscourt was built with sixty-eight rooms!
Richard and Dorothy had two sons. The first, Edward, 2nd Viscount Powercourt, died childless, so his brother, Richard (1730-1788), became 3rd Viscount Powerscourt.
I wrote about the history of the Wingfield family briefly in my entry for Powerscourt Townhouse.  Seven years after inheriting the title, Richard 3rd Viscount began the building of Powerscourt Townhouse, so that he had a grand Palladian home in Dublin for residing and entertaining, when not living in his estate in Wicklow. He married Amelia Stratford, daughter of John Stratford, the 1st Earl of Aldborough. For the rest of the Wingfield successors, see  and also the Powerscourt website and see my entry about Powerscourt Townhouse https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/04/02/powerscourt-townhouse-59-south-william-street-dublin-2/
Richard and Amelia’s son Richard 4th Viscount Powerscourt was brave enough to vote against the Act of Union in 1800, upsetting his neighbours. He married, firstly, Lady Catherine Meade, daughter of John Meade, 1st Earl of Clanwilliam County Tipperary, who gave birth to the heir and “two spares.” After her death, he married Isabella Brownlow, daughter of William, MP for Armagh, and they several more children.
From 1842 onwards, the 6th Viscount of Powerscourt employed Daniel Robertson of Kilkenny to improve the gardens. Robertson created Italian gardens on the terraces, with broad steps and inlaid pavement, balustrades and statues. In the fountain below the “perron” of the main terrace, Mark Bence-Jones tells us, there is a pair of bronze figures of Eolus, “which came from the Palais Royale in Paris, having been sold by Prince Napolean 1872 to the 7th Viscount [Mervyn Edward Wingfield], who completed the garden.”
The garden work was continued by F.C. Penrose when Daniel Robertson died in 1849 while working on the gardens at Lisnavagh, County Carlow. Apparently Robertson was often the worse for wear during his work, as he was fond of the sherry. He took to directing from a wheelbarrow, as he had gout and difficulty walking – maybe not just due to the gout!
Quote above from “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne. See below also.
Robert O’Byrne tells us that Daniel Robertson was born in America, and that he was one of the most influential garden designers to work in Ireland in the second quarter of the 19th century.
Mervyn Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powerscourt sought to create gardens similar to those he had seen in the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna and at the Palace of Versailles. His task took twenty years, completed in 1880. He enlisted the help of Alexander Robertson.
There are many more elements of the garden to explore, such as the Japanese gardens, the pet cemetery, the pepperpot tower, and the walled gardens. I only recently discovered the pepperpot tower! When I visited the gardens with my parents, we must have always been too tired as a family, after exploring the rest, to walk up from the Japanese gardens to the pepperpot tower!
I have always loved the Japanese gardens, which remind me of the Japanese tea gardens in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. I have a lovely memory of having a cup of tea and a fortune cookie in San Francisco’s Japanese gardens, and the cookie contained the fortune I’d seen photographed earlier that day in a large photograph on display in a museum: “You will have many interesting and artistic people to your home.” It seemed too much to me at the time to be a coincidence – and it would be, I thought, at the age of about twenty, a dream come true. I sellotaped the fortune onto a small bookshelf on my desk, hoping it would come true. And indeed it has!
Bence-Jones writes of an incident about Powerscourt Waterfall, which is further out on the estate:
“the waterfall, the highest in the British Isles, which, when George IV came to Powerscourt 1821, was dammed up in order that the monarch might have an even more exciting spectacle; the idea being to open the sluice while the Royal party watched from a specially-constructed bridge. The King took too long over his dinner and never got to the waterfall, which was fortunate; for when eventually the water was released, the bridge was swept away.“
The collection of statues, and the wrought iron gates, are beautiful.
The Irish Aesthete tells us that the Bamberg Gate:
“was originally constructed in Vienna in 1770 and installed in Bamberg Cathedral, Northern Bavaria. Probably in the late 1820s, when all Baroque additions were stripped from the building, the gate was removed and sold: around 1870 Mervyn Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powerscourt bought it from a London dealer and placed it in the present position. On the opposite side of the walled garden is the so-called Chorus Gate, the design supposedly based on a 17th century original (although this has not been found) and likewise purchased in London. Its intricate ironwork features myriad winged seraphim blowing trumpets. Both gates have recently been cleaned and re-gilded.” 
The National Inventory has two good pictures of the interior of the house, which is gradually being restored since the 1974 fire:
The interior of Powerscourt before the fire was magnificently sumptuous and slightly crazy! Fortunately photographs exist, and some are in the National Library archives:
I have never seen shells on a ceiling decoration such as these, although I know the famous letter writer Mary Delaney made similar decoration on a fireplace as well as filling an outdoor shell house, similar to the one at Curraghmore [see my entry about Curraghmore]. The Wingfields must have prided themselves on their military connection, with their display of armour and guns, and their hunting prowess, with all the deer head and antler trophies and the skin rugs. There is even an antler chandelier, which Sean O’Reilly tells us is called an Austrian “Lusterweiblen.” Some of the antlers were made of papier-mache! O’Reilly published other old photographs of the interior in Irish Houses and Gardens, including of the saloon, which he explains is more in the Roman Renaissance than Palladian style, which is reflected somewhat in the rest of the house. (see )
The house was occupied by the Slazenger family in 1974 when the fire broke out on the top floor, leaving the main building completely destroyed. They had purchased the house complete with all of its contents. Fortunately, nobody was injured. The house was left abandoned for twenty years, but they opened the gardens to the public. In 1996 the family started the renovation process with a new roof and restoration of the windows.  (Surely not) coincidentally, Ralph Slazenger’s daughter Wendy (Ann Pauline) Slazenger married Mervyn Niall Wingfield, the 10th Viscount Powerscourt, in 1962. They divorced, however, the same year as the fire, in 1974.
Christies held a sale of the rescued contents of Powerscourt in 1984. Many of the belongings were purchased by Ken Rohan, owner of nearby Charleville House. When I visited Charleville, another section 482 house, the tour guide pointed out the grand decorative curtain pelments purchased in the Powerscourt sale. [see my entry on Charleville House https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/18/charleville-county-wicklow/
Finally, there is a Bagot connection to the Wingfields, albeit indirectly, and I haven’t found any connection (yet!) of my family with this Irish Bagot family. Christopher Neville Bagot (1821-1877) married Alice Emily Verner. When Christopher died, he left a large estate. His son was born less than nine months after he married, and his brother contested the will, claiming that the son, William Hugh Neville Bagot (1875-1960) was not really Christopher Bagot’s son. Alice Emily and her son won the trial to the extent that her son inherited Christopher’s money, but Christopher’s brother inherited the land. Alice Emily came from a well-connected family. Her mother was a Pakenham. Her grandmother was Harriet Wingfield (1801-1877), a daughter of Edward Wingfield (1772-1859), who was the son of Richard Wingfield, 3rd Viscount Powerscourt – the one who built Powerscourt Townhouse!
 A Bagot married into the Herbert family, who owned Durrow Abbey before the Slazenger family. John Bagot married Mary Herbert, daughter of the 2nd Baronet of Durrow Abbey in 1728.
 For more on the ownership of Durrow Abbey, see the Irish Aesthete: https://theirishaesthete.com/2018/04/23/in-limbo-2/
 O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Arurum Press Limited, London, published 1998, paperback edition 2008.
 page 3200, volume 2. Mosley, Charles, editor. Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes. Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke’s Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003. Quoted on http://www.thepeerage.com
 p. 111, O’Reilly, Sean.
 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.
 Powerscourt Townhouse, 59 South William Street, Dublin 2
 For the continuation of the Wingfield line who lived in Powerscourt, I refer to Burke’s Peerage, and to the website of Timothy William Ferres, otherwise known as Lord Belmont:
The Wingfields married well. The 3rd Viscount’s son inherited the title and estate: Richard Wingfield, 4th Viscount (1762-1809).
He married firstly, in 1789, Catherine, second daughter of John Meade, 1st Earl of Clanwilliam, by whom he had his successor, Richard.
RICHARD, 5th Viscount (1790-1823), married Frances Theodosia, eldest daughter of Robert Jocelyn, 2nd Earl of Roden, and their son, Richard, became his successor.
RICHARD, 6th Viscount (1815-44), who married, in 1836, his cousin, the Lady Elizabeth Frances Charlotte Jocelyn, daughter of Robert Jocelyn, 3rd Earl of Roden. He was succeeded by his son, Mervyn Edward Wingfield.
MERVYN EDWARD, 7th Viscount (1836-1904), KP, Privy Counsellor, who wedded, in 1864, the Lady Julia Coke, daughter of Thomas William Coke, 2nd Earl of Leicester (of the seventh creation!). According to Turtle Bunbury , Mervyn published two books: “Wingfield Memorials” (1894) and “A History of Powerscourt” (1903). He was elected president of the Royal Dublin Society and was also a member of the Royal Irish Academy of Science. He was made a Knight of the Order of St. Patrick in 1871. He was later appointed to the Privy Council of Ireland, acting as one of the Lord Justices of Ireland in 1902.
Mervyn Edward and Julia’s son, Mervyn Wingfield (1880-1947), become the 8th Viscount and succeeded to Powerscourt. The 8th Viscount was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Wicklow, from 1910 until 1922. After Irish Independence, he was elected by W.T. Cosgrave to serve as a Senator in 1921. His son, Mervyn Patrick Wingfield (1905–73) became the 9th Viscount.
The 9th Viscount followed in the family’s military tradition and served in WWII and was captured and became a prisoner of war. According to wikipedia , he suffered from shell shock. His wife and children moved to Bermuda during the war and returned to Powerscourt afterwards but their marriage fell apart, and Mervyn Patrick sold Powerscourt.
According to Turtle Bunbury, Richard Wingfield 1st Viscount had a daughter, Isabella, who in 1722 married Sir Henry King, MP for Boyle and Roscommon, who built King House in County Roscommon, another section 482 property.
Turtle Bunbury also tells us that the 6th Viscount Powerscourt purchased Luggala, also in County Wicklow, in 1840, from the “financially challenged” La Touche family. We will come across the La Touch family when I write about Harristown, another Section 482 property.