Twelve things you might miss while wandering around Powerscourt Gardens

Twelve things you might miss while wandering around Powerscourt Gardens

I made some use of the bit of weekend sunshine that we had to grab some of the more unusual views at Powerscourt.

Obviously the great terraces are immediately identifiable as belonging to Powerscourt, but here are some other pictures that each have a story behind them. It was hard to limit to twelve! Another visit would give another twelve pictures but I hope that you find them interesting.

1. The Laocoön

The Laocoön is an enormous piece of sculpture based on a Greek legend. However, almost as impressive is the enormous granite plinth it is standing on. It took two weeks to move this on wooden rollers from Glencree to this spot, all the while the head gardener at the time Alexander Robertson was sitting on top issuing instructions.

2. The Chorus Gate

Immediately after the Laocoon, you pass through The Chorus Gate. Made from a copy of a 17th century German gate, and purchased in London for this position, you can see the musical insignia on the ironwork. In the original plans there was no gate at this position, so it must have been added during the reconstruction in the second half of the 19th century.

 3. Julia’s Garden

Julia was the wife of Mervyn, 7th Viscount, and this garden takes pride of place in this location where his accomplished collecting ability is obvious. While this is the only bust of Julia in the garden, Mervyn named the bust of a lady among four other men on the front of the house "Empress Julia". This garden was installed by their son. Four statues are arranged underneath the bust. The central two used to stand at the Bamberg Gate.

4. The English Gate

This gate leads from what was the old kitchen garden into the Green Pond, now called the Dolphin Pond. It was made in England, hence the name, but over the gate you can make out a rose, thistle and shamrock representing the United Kingdom (inset).

5. Princess Grace’s Tree

The gardens are full of trees planted by distinguished visitors, this one was planted by Princess Grace in 1978. This is a good spot to view the terraces.

6. Roman Ruins

Both the 6th and 7th Viscounts were keen and knowledgeable collectors of sculpture and cratsmanship from all over Europe to decorate their house and gardens. There is mention of a Roman sarcophagus acquired near the Colloseum in Rome - is this it? Not exactly the kind of thing that could happen today!

7. Coat of Arms

Powerscourt's coat of arms are represented in several places. Here, they were specially commissioned by the 6th Viscount to adorn the plinths under two statues on the Upper Terrace: Diana the Huntress and Apollo Belvedere, also acquired by the 6th Viscount.

8. Terraces

There's no way you can miss the terraces, but interestingly, all the sculpture work on the upper terrace is marble (see lion in background) and those on the lower terrace is bronze (foreground piece). The straight sections of railing around the perron were discovered by the 7th Viscount during renovations having been brought back from Europe by the 6th Viscount decades earlier. The curved pieces were made in Birmingham to complete the piece. Can you tell the difference?

9. Alexander Robertson

This is my favourite position to view the house. It's also close to where Mervyn, 7th Viscount says that Alexander Robertson—the gardener with which he began the construction of the terraces with in 1850s—fell ill. He died soon after in 1860. He was only at the garden for 5 - 6 years, but his impact was enormous. He is buried in the graveyard near the house.

10. Juggy’s Pond

Juggy's pond, now called Triton pond is as least as the old as the house itself. Its shape changed once or twice during reconstruction. At one stage it was planned for it to be a formal rectangular space. Luckily that didn't happen. The pond was 14ft deep, but was reduced to 6ft with soil as the terraces were carved out. It was also the sewage outlet from the house until the mid-19th century. Luckily that did change!

11. The Lord Viscount’s Walk

One of the more under-visited parts of the garden as it is off the main track, this was a place for Powerscourt to plant some of the most impressive trees in the gardens. I can see him walking around here while pondering his plans for the house, gardens, and estate!

12. Servant’s Hall

Major development work to the house in the 1880s saw the building of the Servant's Hall. It was later called the Armoury, although I was never sure if that was just a decorative term!

References

Irish Gardens and Demesnes from 1830, Malins and Bowe.

A Description and History of Powerscourt, Mervyn Wingfield, 1903.

Minute Books of the Guardians of Powerscourt, National Library of Ireland.