Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Powerscourt House

THE VISCOUNTS POWERSCOURT WERE THE SECOND LARGEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY WICKLOW, WITH 40,986 ACRES

THE surname of Wingfield is derived from the manor of Wingfield, Suffolk, where the progenitors of this family are stated to have been located before the Conquest; and the place of their abode was denominated Wingfield Castle.
It has been said that this manor gave both a name and seat to a large family in those parts, famous for their knighthood and ancient gentility, which brought forth an abundance of renowned knights, and among them two celebrated companions of the Most Noble Order of the Garter under the reign of HENRY VIII.
SIR RICHARD WINGFIELD (1550-1634),
lineally descended from the Wingfields of Letheringham, in Suffolk, a personage of high military reputation, began his career under his uncle, Sir William Fitzwilliam, Lord Deputy of Ireland, in the civil wars in Ireland. 
He was afterwards engaged upon the Continent; and returning to Ireland, was appointed by ELIZABETH I, in 1600, Marshal of Ireland; and by JAMES I, for his subsequent achievements, twice joined in the government of Ireland. At the same time he was called to His Majesty's privy council.
Sir Richard was elevated to the peerage, as VISCOUNT POWERSCOURT, in 1618; but died without issue, in 1634, when the dignity expired; while the estates devolved upon his cousin,

SIR EDWARD WINGFIELD, a distinguished soldier under the Earl of Essex, and a person of great influence and power in Ireland.

He married Anne, daughter of Edward, Lord Cromwell; and dying in 1644 or 45, was succeeded by his only son,

FOLLIOTT WINGFIELD (1642-1717), in whose favour the viscountcy of Powerscourt was revived in 1665.

His lordship wedded Lady Elizabeth Boyle, eldest daughter of his guardian, the Earl of Orrery; but dying without issue, the peerage again expired, while the estates passed to his cousin,

EDWARD WINGFIELD, barrister-at-law (son of Lewis Wingfield), who espoused firstly, Eleanor, second daughter of Sir Arthur Gore, of Newton Gore, County Mayo; and secondly, Miss Lloyd, daughter of William, Lord Bishop of Killala; by the former of whom he had one son and two daughters, viz.
RICHARD, his heir;
Isabella; Sidney.
The only son,

RICHARD WINGFIELD (1697-1751), of Powerscourt, MP, was elevated to peerage, in 1743, by the titles of Baron Wingfield and VISCOUNT POWERSCOURT (3rd creation).

His lordship married firstly, in 1721, Anne, daughter of Christopher Usher, of Usher's Quay, Dublin, but by her had no issue.

He wedded secondly, Dorothy, daughter of Hercules Rowley, of Summerhill, County Meath, and had issue,
EDWARD, 2nd Viscount;
RICHARD, 3rd Viscount;
Frances; Isabella.
His lordship was succeeded by his elder son,

EDWARD, 2nd Viscount (1729-64); at whose demise, unmarried, the honours devolved upon his only brother,

RICHARD, 3rd Viscount (1730-88), who espoused Emelia, daughter of John, Earl of Aldborough, and had issue,
RICHARD, his successor;
John;
Edward;
Martha; Emilia; Harriot.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD, 4th Viscount (1762-1809), who married firstly, in 1789, Catherine, second daughter of John, 1st Earl of Clanwilliam, by whom he had three sons,
RICHARD, his successor;
John;
Edward, father of RICHARD.
The 4th Viscount wedded secondly, in 1796, Isabella, second daughter of the Rt Hon William Brownlow, and by that lady had,
William;
Catherine; Emily.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD, 5th Viscount (1790-1823), who espoused, in 1813, Frances Theodosia, eldest daughter of Robert, 2nd Earl of Roden, by whom he had issue,
RICHARD, his successor;
Catherine Anne.
His lordship married secondly, in 1822, Theodosia, daughter of the Hon Hugh Howard, and niece of the Earl of Wicklow, but had no other issue.

He was succeeded by his only son,

RICHARD, 6th Viscount,
  • Mervyn Patrick Wingfield, 9th Viscount (1905–73);
  • Mervyn Niall Wingfield, 10th Viscount (1935-2015);
  • Mervyn Anthony Wingfield, 11th Viscount (b 1963)
The 8th Viscount was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Wicklow, from 1910 until 1922.

Garden front

POWERSCOURT, near Enniskerry, County Wicklow, is one of the most beautiful country estates in Ireland.

Situated in the mountains of Wicklow, it was originally an important strategic site for the Anglo-Normans, who came to Ireland in the 12th century.

By the year 1300 a castle had been built here and was in the possession of the le Poer (Power) family from which it takes its name.

The succeeding centuries saw the castle held for different periods by powerful families such as the O'Tooles and the FitzGeralds, Earls of Kildare.


In 1603 Powerscourt Castle and lands were granted to a new English arrival in the area: Richard Wingfield.

Following a successful military career in Ireland, Flanders, France and Portugal, Wingfield was knighted and in 1600 was appointed as Marshal of Ireland.

His descendants were to remain at Powerscourt for over 350 years.

Powerscourt was much altered in the 18th century when famous German-born architect, Richard Castle, remodelled the castles and grounds.

The work was commissioned by Richard Wingfield (1697-1751) and involved the creation of a magnificent mansion around the shell of the earlier castle.

Entrance front

The central courtyard was converted into an entrance hall beneath the remarkably beautiful ballroom.


The north front was adapted to present a grand entrance in the Palladian manner, while the south and front faced the gardens and was initially only two storeys in height.
Powerscourt House was extensively altered during the 18th century by the German architect Richard Cassels, starting in 1731 and finishing in 1741: On a commanding hilltop position, Cassells deviated slightly from his usual sombre style, to give the house something of a 'castle air'; a severe Palladian façade bookended by two circular domed towers. 
GEORGE IV was the guest of Richard Wingfield, 5th Viscount, in August 1821.

The 7th Viscount inherited the title and the Powerscourt estate, which comprised 49,000 acres of land, at the age of 8 in 1844.

When he reached the age of 21, he embarked on an extensive renovation of the house and created the new gardens.

Main attractions on the grounds include the Tower Valley (with stone tower), Japanese Gardens, winged horse statues, Lake, Dolphin Pond, Walled Gardens, Bamberg Gate and the Italian Garden.

The Pepper Pot Tower is said to be designed after a favoured three-inch pepper pot.

Of particular note is the pets' cemetery, whose tombstones have been described as "astonishingly personal".

Inspiration for the garden design followed visits by Powerscourt to ornamental gardens at the Palace of Versailles, Schönbrunn Palace near Vienna, and Schwetzingen Castle near Heidelberg.

The garden development took 20 years to complete in 1880.

In 1961, the estate was sold by the 9th Viscount, Mervyn Patrick Wingfield, to the Slazenger family, who still own it to this day (2010).

Tragically in the early hours of 4th November, 1974, a fire broke out on the top floor and by the morning the main part of the house was a roofless shell.

No one was injured, but all of the principal reception rooms and bedrooms were destroyed.

The Saloon

The walls of the main house, revealing stonework dating back to the 16th century, stood as a stark reminder of the fire for over twenty years.

Then in 1996 a process of regeneration began with the re-roofing of the house and the restoration of the windows as they were before the fire.

The entrance hall now features an exhibition describing the fascinating history of Powerscourt, while shops, a terrace café and other visitor facilities are also located in the house.

Wendy Anne Pauline Slazenger (daughter of the late Ralph Slazenger), married the 10th Viscount, Mervyn Niall Wingfield, in 1962. The marriage was dissolved in 1974 and Lord Powerscourt remarried.

Through her children, the Hon Mervyn Anthony Wingfield and the Hon Julia Wingfield, there remains a strong family connection between the two families and the Powerscourt Estate.

Only two rooms are open to the public as they once appeared while Powerscourt had residents, while the rest of ground floor and first floor are now retail units.


THE GARDENS at Powerscourt were laid out in two main periods.

When the house was rebuilt in the decade after 1731, the surrounding grounds were laid out in a series of formal rides and parkland to the North, with carefully planned gardens and terraces to the South. 

The design reflected the desire to create a garden which was part of the wider landscape.

To the north formal tree plantations framed the vista from the house, while a walled garden, fish pond, cascades, grottoes and terraces lay to the south. 

Walks wound through the wooded grounds and a fine tree lined avenue was created.

A century later the 6th Viscount instructed his architect, Daniel Robertson, to draw up new schemes for the gardens. 

Robertson was one of the leading proponents of Italianate garden design which was influenced by the terraces and formal features of Italian Renaissance villas and perfected in gardens in France and Germany.

Robertson designed the terrace nearest the house. He is said to have suffered from gout and directed operations from a wheelbarrow, fortified by a bottle of sherry. When the sherry was finished, work ceased for the day!

The death of the 6th Viscount in 1844 meant that alterations to the gardens ceased until his son resumed the work in the late 1850s. 

Using a combination of Robertson's designs and the plans of the other landscape experts, the terraces were completed, enormous numbers of trees were planted and the grounds adorned with an amazing collection of statuary, ironwork and other decorative items.

By the time of his death in 1904, the 7th Viscount had transformed the Estate.

Further generations of the Wingfields maintained the grounds, adding the Japanese Gardens, Pepper Pot Tower and continuing to plant specimen trees. 

First published in November, 2011.   Powerscourt arms courtesy of European Heraldry. Select bibliography: The Powerscourt Website.

2 comments :

Serge Seymour said...

Trying to reach the 10th Viscount Mervyn Nial Wingfield Powerscourt. Please contact Serge Seymour serge1968@gmail.com.

Ivor Cottell said...

Trying to contact Anthony (Tony) Wingfield. We were at Bath College together. Please contact Ivor Cottell - i.cottell@btinternet.com