Soon after his coming of age in 1857, Mervyn, 7th Viscount Powerscourt began to add to his estate, and an acquisition of considerable size was a large parcel of land to the south of Powerscourt Waterfall consisting of Ballinastoe and Luggala. Powerscourt was interested in grazing lands and forestry, and these lands offered the opportunity to expand these interests.
The story of Luggala is told in Robert O’Byrne‘s wonderful book, Luggala Days. The book is incredibly impressive in its scope, covering nearly two and a half centuries of the house’s history. The three families that owned it over this time: the La Touches of Bellevue who kept it as a hunting lodge; Powerscourt who bought it for land; and Guinnesses/Brownes, who purchased it from Powerscourt for a wedding present. Each transfer marked a once great family in decline.
Within such a broad range of material, one tends to linger on pages of personal interests. The early history of the house is drawn together using travel accounts, archives and paintings, and there is a rich variety of these. Soon after his purchase of Luggala, Powerscourt bought William Ashford’s painting of Luggala from La Touche, and Mervyn later wrote in his memoir that La Touche said to him on the occasion of the purchase that since he’d bought the place, he might as well have the painting too. The painting eventually returned to Luggala after the Powerscourt auction in 1984, and can be seen in photographs of the dining room.
Little is known of the Powerscourt era at Luggala. The Powerscourt records at the National Library focus on the productivity of the estate, but do not mention the house. It is suggested that the house was leased out, perhaps to an estate agent or manager, and this seems likely, given Powerscourt’s generally good record of estate management.
As Powerscourt declined in the early 20th century, Luggala was sold again to the Guinness family. Ernest Guinness purchased the house and presented it to his daughter Oonagh. The story of the Guinnesses at Luggala takes up the second half of the book, and is a wonderful account of a house used and enjoyed to the full. The book is beautifully illustrated throughout with paintings and drawings from early history, James Fennell’s beautiful photography of the house and grounds, and an enormous amount of family photos from the Guinness/Browne archives. It also contains lots of interesting gems about Wicklow families, places and people, not least the one about Charley the boatman. For any lovers of Wicklow, or architecture, or Irish social history, its a great addition to the bookshelf. It is available from bookshops and the Irish Georgian Society on South William St.
A great view of Luggala is from the hill opposite, and a walk down from the Pier Gates and up Luggala (which the Ordnance Survey also marks as “Fancy Mountain”, why?) eventually leads to views across the lake and of the house. You can complete the circle and rejoin the road returning to the Pier Gates.