5. Inside the medieval castle at Powerscourt

A curious document in Powerscourt’s timeline is an auction catalogue dating from February 1729. After Folliott died in 1717, his cousin Edward Wingfield inherited the estate. Edward married twice; firstly to his cousin Eleanor Gore. He died in January 1728 at his house on Sth William Street, and through a marriage with his cousin, left three children: Richard, Isabella, and Sidney. Richard and his wife Dorothy (née Rowley, see next post) had married in April 1727, and after Edward’s death, Richard inherited the Powerscourt Estate.

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Having married the year previously, Richard and Dorothy must have soon decided to sell the contents of the medieval castle at Powerscourt along with the contents of Powerscourt’s town house (which preceded the current town house, built later in the century). This must have been part of an effort to clear out the old in preparation for extensive renovations and rebuilding at Powerscourt that would take place in the following decade. The answer to why everything was sold—including livestock—is a mystery. It seems unlikely that the reason was financial, given the wealth that the marriage to Dorothy Rowley brought to the estate. Whatever the reason, this document provides a fascinating glimpse of what rooms the old castle contained, just before the new house at Powerscourt was constructed.

A settlebed in its opened form. During the day, it could be folded up to form a bench

A settlebed in its opened arrangement. During the day, it could be folded up to form a bench

Rooms listed in the castle include a Kitchen containing among its items four dozen and one pewter dishes, nine dozen and five plates, and eight spits, with all other irons necessary; a Servants’ Hall with a large oak table and two forms; a Boarded Hall and a Stone Hall, both of which contain three oak oval tables and a deal settle-bed. A settlebed was a piece of furniture with dual purpose: in the day time, it was used as a seat, and at night, it opened up to form a cot-like bed. It was common for servants to sleep in settlebeds in the halls of medieval houses.

Lots drawn from the Great Parlour at Powerscourt

Lots drawn from the Great Parlour at Powerscourt

Clearly the largest rooms were the Great Parlour—containing several lots including twenty four fine walnut chairs with barbary leather seats, a pair of globes, very good, and four pairs of scarlet paragon window curtains—and a Dining Room, with twenty two chairs, a settee, two stools with walnut frames covered with yellow India Damask, which was described as “perfectly new and fashionable.” The floor in the dining room was covered in a “Turkey Carpet.

Some of the horses and mares up for auction

Some of the horses and mares up for auction

It’s tempting to picture this collection of rooms on the ground floor of the building, with several bedrooms occupying the upper storey.  Furniture for several bedrooms are described, including Lord Powerscourt’s closet, a scarlet, a yellow, two green and mohair rooms. A Nursery with adjacent room and bed and a closet and six Servant Rooms with furniture complete the rooms in the house.  In addition, there were several service rooms, probably outside the main house: a bake-house; an out-larder; a wash-house; a brew-house; a cellar; a dairy; and a confectionary with two oak presses for sweet meats. Additional lots from the Wicklow part of the sale include saddlery, livestock (cattle and sheep) and 35 horses, most of them named except five coach horses and four plough horses.

Not long after this sale, the construction of the new house at Powerscourt began, which brings us to a new era for Powerscourt. The next article is our final for this era (1603 – 1728), where we will take a closer look at the marriage between Richard and Dorothy.

With thanks to Michael Wood.


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