The Powerscourt Blog

Visit Kilternan Country Market This Weekend

Posted by Aoife O'Driscoll on Apr 25, 2016 4:16:58 PM

Nearby to Powerscourt is the lovely village of Kilternan which has a fantastic country market! In this blog post we explore the market and see what it has to offer!

Kilternan Country Market has a rich history of over 50 years and situated in Kilternan opposite The Golden Ball pub. The market is open every Saturday morning from 10am to 12pm. They offer locally produced, home-cooked, home-grown, high-quality produce and unique crafts.


It has become an institution, beloved by members and friends. It is a sort of Saturday morning club where producers and customers meet for their morning coffee and chat. When you step through our doors you will be greeted with a friendly smile, a community spirit and a host of sumptuous home-baked goods, additive-free meals, wholesome jams and chutneys, organic chickens, free-range eggs, locally grown vegetables, healthy plants, stunning flowers, beautiful crafts and an inviting café.


Almost everything is from, or made within, 10 miles of the premises and the market prizes itself on its fresh food and fresh produce at a good price. It is also special for the way it operates. On the way in you are given a docket on which all your purchases are marked and a single payment is made on the way out.

As the Irish Times said: "This is a hub of warm chatter and friendliness where newcomers are very welcome, and it’s a sign of a community that knows how to guide the future with values that, happily, have not been left in the past."


A short history of the Market:

Kilternan Country Market is a co-operative market for members’ farm, garden and home produce as well as traditional crafts. The Market is a member of Irish Country Markets Ltd which is closely allied to the Irish Countrywomen's Association. The market started in 1964 following a meeting organised by Michael Bermingham. The first committee was formed shortly afterwards. Some of the founders are still active members like Robin and Olive Pierce and Willie Doyle. The first building was constructed by Bermingham and Joe Pierce using recycled timber from Trinity College and a “bucket of crooked nails”. Since 1968 the current building stands near the original location, opposite The Golden Ball pub on the Enniskerry Road, and is owned by the members.


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Topics: Wicklow

SAVE THE DATE for Gardening Classes at Powerscourt Garden Pavilion

Posted by Aoife O'Driscoll on Apr 20, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Calling all passionate and budding gardeners! Now spring has arrived, gardeners across Ireland are bursting to get outdoors and start enjoying their gardens. Get your notebook to the ready and head to Powerscourt Garden Pavilion in North Wicklow for a series of talks and workshops from their gardening experts. Upcoming events include:

Hanging Basket & Container Gardens to suit every home

2nd May, 11 – 12pm, free of charge

Containers offer great versatility and are a fantastic way to experiment with planting and design. You don’t have to limit yourself to just using flowers. Shrubs will thrive in containers with little care and can be a great focal point in your garden. Join Powerscourt horticulturalists for a free gardening talk and get ideas on planting for the summer season.


Free Plant Up Service for Pots & Containers

9th to 13th May, 9.30am – 5.30pm, free of charge

Would you like colourful window boxes, eye-catching hanging baskets and fabulous pot planters this summer? Bring along your old pots, baskets, window-boxes, wellies or favourite container to Powerscourt Garden Pavilion and they will plant them up for you. The only cost to you will be the plants you use, the time and labour is on them!


Dahlia Cultivation & Care Masterclass

14th May, 2 – 3pm, free of charge

Join Christopher White, one of Ireland’s foremost dahlia growers, floral designers and demonstrators for a fascinating talk on the beautiful Dahlia plant. As Chairperson of the Irish Dahlia Society Christopher knows his stuff! Selling dahlias to botanic gardens all over the world, Christopher specialises in exhibition dahlias and garden varieties. This dahlia workshop is a must for both experienced and beginner dahlia growers.


Children’s Hanging Basket Workshop

15th May, 2 – 3pm, €5

A lovely family event to ‘grow’ a love of nature and who knows even ‘sow’ an interest in gardening for life! Each child will have a lovely hanging basket to take home with them and the skills to plant up more. Suitable for ages 4 upwards.


All events take place at Powerscourt Garden Pavilion in Powerscourt Estate in County Wicklow and must be booked in advance on their website:

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Topics: Powerscourt Garden Pavilion, Events, Gardening, Wicklow

Gardens of the Gods Historical Walking Tour of Powerscourt Gardens with John Ducie

Posted by Aoife O'Driscoll on Apr 20, 2016 11:10:06 AM

Gardens of the Gods

Historical Walking Tour of Powerscourt Gardens with John Ducie

Be transported back in time by John Ducie, garden expert and historian, in a guided walking tour of Powerscourt Gardens and the wider landscape beyond in County Wicklow on 4th of May at 11am. 


  • Hear stories behind the creation of one of the world’s greatest gardens; the amassing of its collection of ancient Roman and Greek statues and German, English, Italian and French art works. Learn about the themes of the works and how they came to be located in Wicklow.
  • Discover the secrets of its design and of the lives of talented architects, builders and gardeners who made it all possible.
  • Learn about how the garden and house were used in the past
  • Find out about the owners and their contributions to Ireland and the world, including the modern games of golf and tennis and the shaping of Irish identity and landscape.
  • Marvel at the rich plant life, find out about its skilful use and discover the world famous collection of rare and beautiful trees.


The cost of the event is included in the entry price to Powerscourt Gardens and is free for Powerscourt members. To book tickets visit,

John Ducie is a professional Horticulturist, garden historian and landscape designer. He is a past President of the European Network of National Heritage Organisations and a past Chairman of the Heritage Gardens and Designed Landscapes Committee for Ireland. He was a founder of both The Tree Council of Ireland and the Irish Garden Plant Society. He is a Failte Ireland Approved National Tour Guide and a member of ATGI.  He has known and loved Powerscourt for more than 50 years, met the last Viscount to live there and was in the house before the great fire of 1974.


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Topics: Powerscourt Estate, Powerscourt Gardens, Events, Powerscourt House, Wicklow

Family Adventures in Magical Gardens at Powerscourt

Posted by Carmel Byrne on Apr 19, 2016 9:44:09 AM


Interested in what’s on for families in County Wicklow this May? Join Abracadabra School for Creative Kids on May 8th in an exciting walk in the beautiful Powerscourt Gardens, where tour guide Katie and her friends will take you into the story. Literally. Powerscourt Gardens are magical and contain many hidden secrets. Our mission is to find one of the great ancestors of Powerscourt, Lord Londonderry, as we have to deliver an important message to him. The Lord is a very generous man so we are sure that he will reward us with one of his fascinating stories brought home from his travels!


Children will learn magic spells and enjoy singing and dancing during the walk. Families are welcome to dress as a favourite character or in costume to add to the fun! Be sure to bring weather appropriate clothes, and just in case of rain….wellies! The event costs €30 for a family of 5, with other ticket options available. To book your place, visit


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Daughters, Doweries and Debt

Posted by Brenda Comerford on Mar 29, 2016 5:09:13 PM

Daughters, Dowries and Debt

The life of an Elizabethan career soldier and adventurer was physically demanding, dangerous and highly political with each one vying for the attention of the Queen.  Richard Wingfield, 1st Viscount Powerscourt, fought for decades across Europe and finally in Ireland gained lands and title.  But what of the wives of these hardy military men? Marriages in general were arranged and first and foremost a family alliance was based on the dowry and or political connections of the bride.  In the case of Richard and Frances Rugge their marriage may well have been an honourable gesture by a gentleman to the widow of an old comrade in arms.

Frances was firstly married to Edward 3rd Baron Cromwell who had fought with Richard in the Netherlands and in the wars in Ireland.  Edward was descended from the famous Thomas Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith, who was born in 1485 and entered the service of Cardinal Wolsey, King Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor, rapidly becoming one of Wolsey's chief agents.  In 1530 Wolsey fell out of favour with Henry VIII and was executed, whereupon Cromwell, then aged 45, entered Henry VIII's service and soon emerged to become one of the most powerful men in the Kingdom.  It was Thomas Cromwell who masterminded the dissolution of the monasteries and established the absolute authority of the monarchy and the protestantisation of the English church.  But in 1540 he lost the support of Henry VIII and, like Wolsey and many others before, was executed, thus losing all of his titles as well as his head.


Thomas Cromwell

The Barony of Oakham was, however, returned to the Cromwell family later that same year by way of a grant to Gregory, Thomas Cromwell's son.  Gregory became the 1st Baron Cromwell and the title then passed through six further generations, the last holder being Vere, the 7th Baron who died without male children in 1682.  Frances Rugge or Repps was seen as a good match for Edward the 3rd Baron.  William her father held extensive properties in Norfolk and the Rugges’ were a prominent and well established Norfolk family and near neighbours of the Cromwell’s.


Gregory Cromwell

Edward spent years abroad fighting for the Crown from the Netherlands to Ireland and Frances would have seen very little of her husband.  (While fighting in Ireland a Father Edmund MacCana, described Cromwell as, "this son of Earth and foul spot on the human race". MacCana writes of a sortie by Cromwell into the North, " that he (Cromwell) set fire to the noble church and monastery of St Patrick.., and exposed to the fury of the flames the relics of Saint Patrick, Saint Columba and Saint Brigid", MacCana continues, "I have been told by my Grandfather that he was an eye witness of that sacrilegious incendiarism;…for so notorious was the sacrilege of that impious man, that numbers of old men reckoned their age from it").


Earl of Essex

The Earl of Essex knighted Edward for his efforts in Ireland and his future seemed prosperous and well connected until overlooked for an expected appointment Edward got involved in the Earl of Essex Rebellion in 1601 (the Earl rebelled against the Queen following her criticism and censure after his disastrous campaign in Ireland).  Edward seems to have been the victim of circumstance and had very little real involvement in the rebellion but was imprisoned in the Tower of London and Frances and their children’s future must have seemed in grave peril.  Edward could have been executed alongside the ring leaders and all his lands and title forfeit.  In February 1601 Frances had to make “humble suit to the council on behalf of her Lord that is a prisoner in the Tower, in regard that he is corpulent and sickly he may take the air”.  Her wish was granted permitting her husband “from time to time to take the air, but only in the company of the Lieutenant and his deputy”.  


Tower of London

On 5 Mar 1601 Cromwell was brought for trial with Lord Sandys in Westminster Hall, fined the huge sum of £3,000 and placed under house arrest.  Though not debarred from taking his seat in Parliament, Cromwell was advised on the 23th Sep 1601 by the Privy Council that it "is thought by her Majesty more convenient that you forbeare your comminge to the Parliament".  Cromwell frequently petitioned Sir Robert Cecil in an attempt to get himself reconciled with the sovereign.


King James I (VI Scotland)

On the accession of James I in Mar 1603, Lord Edward Cromwell "joined in the proclamation of King James and was afterwards sworn of the Privy Council (Ireland)".  His brother, Gregory, received a knighthood from James that April.  However, in order to meet mounting "debts, payments of great legacies, intolerable charges in law, employment in costly services, imprisonment in the Tower, and other causes…" Cromwell was forced to part with the house of his father and Grandfather, Launde Abbey.  On Dec 9th, the "Grant to Wm.Smith, and his heirs, of the reversion of Launde Priory, co. Leicester, and others, with remainder to lord Cromwell" was made.  James I wrote to Robert Cecil, "I was daily troubled with the poor Lord Cromwell's begging leave to sell the last pieces of his land, who had valiantly served the State in the wars".  However James’ favourites at court were very unsympathetic towards Edward and he even had his coach and horses seized to pay his debts. This period must have been dreadful for Frances as she watched her and her children’s’ inheritance lost placing their future marriages and social standing in grave peril.

In 1605 through Lord Mountjoy, having lost most of his English land and possessions, Edward was made Governor of Lecale in Northern Ireland.  However, Edward struggled in Ireland.  In April 1606 he wrote to Robert Cecil


Robert Cecil

Having laboured to transport myself, my wife, family and goods into Ireland, where I have bought lands of Lord Devonshire's, returning, I am not only fallen sick, but found my Lord (Mountjoy) very sick, whom God has now taken, to my double grief for the loss of so good a friend.  His sudden death prevented the perfecting of the writings for my assurance.  Having ousted myself here of all, and no certainty there, I know not how to turn but to your favour; beseeching that, as I am to live in an uncivil country, that company of foot I have by my Lord's appointment may not be cast, and that you will remember me for those 60 horse of his there, which by his death rest to be disposed.  There was some promise hereof between us.

By June 1606

Being here at Lyrpoole, at the water side ready for my passage, I am informed of many very distasteful news, that the Bishop of Down makes challenge to part of the principal house ; and that there are many leases made for life of the chiefest parts of the land, which are covenanted by my Lord of Devonshire to be made free to me without exception ; besides many other impediments, whereof I am like to feel the future danger ; as also how to keep that rebellious nation in quiet without some means of authority, the only bridle to that uncivil people amongst whom I am to reside, being far from my Lord Deputy and all civil administration.  I acquaint the Countess [of Devonshire] and his lordship's executors more particularly of what I have already heard of the former ; and for the other I wholly rely upon you and their wisdoms who have made an establishment there. I beseech your honourable word to the Countess on my behalf.


Sir Charles Blount, 8th Baron Mountjoy, 1st Earl of Downshire

By September 1607, two days before his death he wrote to the Earl of Salisbury

Leaves to the Deputy's letters and the report of Sir Oliver Lambard, the account of Tirone's flight and other occurrences concerning the same.  Present needful defence must be made against such an enemy, having now so great a pawn and guide in his hand, his stated charge, which now may be hazarded standing next the fire which is likely to kindle in these north parts, where never wanted malice or means to effect any mischief.  In any reinforcement of forces, asks for himself some more proportionable increase of strength.  My Lord Deputy has certified, or may certify, that he, by his forwardness to frame the persons and their proceedings as might be most conformable to His Majesty's service and the good quiet of the country, has purchased little love, and expects less favour of this rebellious nation, if ever they get the overhand of him, from which so small a defence as he now has can hardly secure him. Is ashamed that he cannot present his love to him, either by such worthy means as he would preset or such presents as some parts of this country yieldeth, by hawk or horse, wherein the next season he hope will supply.


Sir Richard Wingfield, Ist Viscount Powerscourt

Following so many years of living in peril, and losing virtually all of their lands and possessions, the Cromwell’s move to Ireland made their circumstances even worse.  His friend and comrade Mountjoy dead, his title to his new homes and lands challenged and surrounded by hostile natives Edward passed away a broken man leaving his family with uncertain means in a dangerous land. Richard Wingfield, his old comrade in arms, must have been literally a knight in shining armour when he married Frances and took her and the family under his protection.  Shortly after their own marriage Richard arranged for Frances’ daughter Frances to marry his god son and relative Sir John Wingfield from Tickencote, Rutland and Sir John’s cousin Edward from Carnew married Frances’ other daughter Ann.  Richard Wingfield died without issue (neither with Frances or his previous wife) so Powerscourt and the title passed on to the grand children of Frances (children of her daughters from her first marriage).

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Topics: Powerscourt Estate

Adventurer to Aristocrat

Posted by Brenda Comerford on Mar 22, 2016 12:42:03 PM

Adventurer to Aristocrat

richard_wingfield.jpgRichard Wingfield 1st Viscount Powerscourt

On a beautiful Spring day like today the view of the Sugar Loaf from Powerscourt is simply breathtaking and it is easy to forget what a rugged and dangerous landscape the Wicklow Mountains seemed to the first Lord Powerscourt. The majestic Sugar Loaf Mountain had for centuries been a landmark for scholars and pilgrims travelling to and from the monastic city of Glendalough.  In 1603 it towered over a very different pilgrim and his battle hardened soldiers, seeking not spiritual enlightenment but land on which to build a dynasty. 


After a long ride from Dublin through dangerous territory, constantly under threat from the native Irish inhabitants still loyal to their Gaelic chieftains, Richard and his men must have been exhausted as they crested the hill to look upon the breath taking vista of his new land grant. Seeing before him land to cultivate and “plant” with loyal subjects of the Crown his resilience and courage, over decades of fighting his way across Europe on behalf of the English Crown, had finally bore fruit. Almost sixty and still nursing some old battle wounds, his new estate, however beautiful, was based around a ruined castle and set in isolated, rugged terrain.  The Gaelic chieftains of Wicklow had fought and raided the rulers of Dublin century after century, from the Vikings to the Normans to the Elizabethan war lords like Richard, who wanted to subjugate this beautiful and lawless region on Dublin’s doorstep.

Knights, Nobles and Normans


The English Crown had claimed ownership of Ireland since 1175, but over the centuries the Norman lords had intermarried and united with the native Gaelic lords, and by the mid-14th century only the area around Dublin known as the Pale was truly loyal to the English Crown.  Powerscourt is an anglicisation of le Poer Court, Norman owners of the land in the first half of the 14th century, but the family lost the land after uniting against the Crown with the Gaelic chieftains.

“My Faithful and Beloved Soldier”

Elizabeth_I_Armada_Portrait.jpgQueen Elizabeth I

There were many career soldiers like Richard with impressive military careers vying for the opportunity to impress Queen Elizabeth I and gain land and title.  It was a grand romantic gesture, as Sir Walter Raleigh did previously with his cloak, which elevated Richard above the other hungry, poetic courtiers in the eyes of the Virgin Queen.  When this wounded, loyal and successful subject was asked by his Queen how she should reward her “faithful and beloved soldier” he humbly replied “the scarf which Your Majesty wears will be sufficient reward for me”.  (Contrast this gesture with the Queen’s horror when she was presented with the pickled head of the Wicklow Chieftain Fiach McHugh O’Byrne).  In 1600 she made him Marshal of Ireland and he oversaw the defeat and exile of the Gaelic Lords and the carving up and “planting” of their lands with loyal British Protestants.  King James rewarded Wingfield's further triumphs against the Gaelic Lords on 29 June 1609 with the grant of the castle and manor of Powerscourt in perpetuity, replacing the 21 year lease dating from 1603.

Conquerors and Colonists

But land and glory in battle were not enough for this ambitious and accomplished soldier.  At almost seventy and without an heir to the amusement of his peers, he spent £2,000 purchasing the title of Viscount Powerscourt, a title which would die with him.  He clearly had faith in the Wingfield’s to follow who did indeed reclaim the title not once but twice and carved a world renowned estate from his wild, rugged land grants.


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Topics: Powerscourt Estate, Powerscourt House, Wicklow, Elizabethan

Love Reigns the Stars at Powerscourt

Posted by Brenda Comerford on Mar 4, 2016 12:25:37 PM

Love Reigns the Stars at Romantic Powerscourt

Powerscourt is delighted to host two film crews, bringing much needed revenue to the locality in these quiet months, at the beautiful Estate. Both are based on the lives of two of history’s most famous and tragic women; Mary Queen of Scots and Mary Shelley. Both are sumptuously costumed and look very much at home in the beautiful Gardens and at the rugged, Wicklow parkland setting of the Waterfall.

mary_and_percy.jpgElle Fanning and Douglas Booth

A Storm in the Stars features the impossibly handsome Douglas Booth, currently on cinema screens in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, as Percy Bysshe Shelley and Elle Fanning (Dakota’s younger sister) as Mary Shelley. Mary was inspired to write her most famous book, and the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein, during a summer she and Percy spent in 1816 in Italy with Lord Byron.

percy_and_mary.jpgElle Fanning and Douglas Booth

One of Lord Byron’s closest friends from his school days, was John Wingfield son of the 4th Viscount Powerscourt. Mary would have been aware of the epitaph Lord Byron wrote in memory of his friend who died aged twenty of fever (rather than in battle which Byron laments in his poem) in Portugal in 1811. Byron claimed to have “known him ten years, the better half of his life, and the happiest part of mine”. At the time of his death, John Wingfield was serving as an ensign with the famous Coldstream Guards in Wellington’s campaign to oust Napoleon’s army from Portugal. Byron later dedicated an epitaph to him in his famous poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, published less than three years later.

douglas_booth.jpgDouglas Booth

“And thou, my friend! - since unavailing woe

Bursts from my heart, and mingles with the strain -

Had the sword laid thee with the mighty low,

Pride might forbid e'en Friendship to complain:

But thus unlaurel'd to descend in vain,

By all forgotten, save the lonely breast,

And mix unbleeding with the boasted slain,

While Glory crowns so many a meaner crest!

What hadst thou done to sink so peacefully to rest?”

lord_byron.jpgLord Byron

In a poem from 1805, “Childish Recollections”, Byron dedicated some sixteen lines to “Alonzo!” (John), the “best and dearest of my friends”.

“Friend of my heart, and foremost of the list

Of those with whom I lived supremely blest;

Oft have we drain'd the font of ancient lore,

Though drinking deeply, thirsting still the more;

Yet, when Confinement's lingering hour was done,

Our sports, our studies, and our souls were one:

Together we impell'd the flying ball,

Together waited in our tutor's hall;

Together join'd in cricket's manly toil,

Or shar'd the produce of the river's spoil;

 Or plunging from the green declining shore,

Our pliant limbs the buoyant billows bore:

In every element, unchang'd, the same,

All, all that brothers should be, but the name”.


Adelaide Kane

Also filming at Powerscourt at the moment is Reign, an American historical fantasy romance television series very loosely based on the early years of Mary, Queen of Scots when she lived in France. The costumes are absolutely gorgeous and the stars are all very beautiful too! In reality Mary led a very tragic and unfortunate life.


Mary, Queen of Scots (8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587), also known as Mary Stuart[3] or Mary I of Scotland, was Queen of Scotland from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567 and Queen consort of France from 10 July 1559 to 5 December 1560.

mary-queen-of-scots_1.jpgMary Queen of Scots

Mary, the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland, was six days old when her father died and she acceded to the throne. She spent most of her childhood in France while Scotland was ruled by regents, and in 1558, she married the Dauphin of France, Francis. He ascended the French throne as King Francis II in 1559, and Mary briefly became queen consort of France, until his death in December 1560. Widowed, Mary returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on 19 August 1561. Four years later, she married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, but their union was unhappy. In February 1567, his residence was destroyed by an explosion, and Darnley was found murdered in the garden.

Elizabeth_I_Armada_Portrait.jpgElizabeth I

James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was generally believed to have orchestrated Darnley's death, but he was acquitted of the charge in April 1567, and the following month he married Mary. Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. On 24 July 1567, she was forced to abdicate in favour of James, her one-year-old son by Darnley. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, she fled southwards seeking the protection of her first cousin once removed, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Mary had previously claimed Elizabeth's throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics, including participants in a rebellion known as the Rising of the North. Perceiving her as a threat, Elizabeth had her confined in various castles and manor houses in the interior of England. After eighteen and a half years in custody, Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth, and was subsequently beheaded.

richard_wingfield.jpgRichard Wingfield 1st Viscount Powerscourt

In reality Mary led a very tragic, unfortunate life and her story would have been well known to Sir Richard Wingfield, 1st Viscount Powerscourt. There were many career soldiers like Richard with impressive military careers vying for the opportunity to impress Queen Elizabeth I and gain land and title.  It was a grand romantic gesture, as Sir Walter Raleigh did previously with his cloak, which elevated Richard above the other hungry, poetic courtiers in the eyes of the Virgin Queen. 

James_I_England.jpgJames I England (James VI Scotland)

When this wounded, loyal and successful subject was asked by his Queen how she should reward her “faithful and beloved soldier” he humbly replied “the scarf which Your Majesty wears will be sufficient reward for me”. In 1600 she made him Marshal of Ireland and he oversaw the defeat and exile of the Gaelic Lords and the carving up and “planting” of their lands with loyal British Protestants.  Mary Queen of Scot’s son, King James I, rewarded Wingfield's further triumphs against the Gaelic Lords on 29 June 1609 with the grant of the castle and manor of Powerscourt in perpetuity, replacing the 21 year lease from Elizabeth I dating from 1603. Richard would have loved the beautiful costumes and people at Powerscourt this week!


Torrance Coombs and friend having fun on set at Powerscourt!

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Topics: Powerscourt Estate

Natives, Knights and Normans

Posted by Brenda Comerford on Feb 22, 2016 1:08:19 PM

On a beautiful morning like this morning its easy for us to forget what an inhospitable and harsh environment much of Co. Wicklow was, in previous centuries, at this time of year. From the arrival of the Normans in the 1170's Ireland was fiercely fought over with alliances constantly shifting and land regularly changing hands as Normans, Gaelic Chieftains and English Adventurers fought for dominance. Three names in particular stand out when considering the bloody history of Wicklow and Powerscourt; O'Toole, O'Byrne and Wingfield.

Nowadays the Wicklow Mountains are a mecca for hill walkers and tourists and sites such as Powerscourt and Glendalough have gained an international reputation for their beauty and breathe taking vistas. However for many centuries the wild, rugged hillsides were harsh and inhospitable lands, the last recourse of the Gaelic Chieftains forced off their fertile plains of central Ireland by the invading Normans. Fortunately for the O’Toole clan they already had a foothold in the glens as St. Lawrence O’Toole had been made Abbot of the monastic city of Glendalough by his father, and he settled his relatives on church land. For a hundred years after the Anglo-Norman invasion, which displaced them to the Wicklow Mountains, the native chieftains battled the harsh climate and poor grasslands to feed their families. However the particularly harsh winter of 1270 forced the starving Gaelic clans to attack the Anglo-Norman colonies of East and North Wicklow, and emboldened by their success they became the scourge of the entire English Pale to the very boundaries of Dublin city. The Gaelic chiefains became as feared as the Viking raiders were before them and eventually the O’Tooles were even exacting a “black rent” from the city of Dublin.


From the early thirteenth century up until the early seventeenth century, when Richard Wingfield first Viscount Powerscourt succeeded in almost completely subjugating Wicklow for the Crown, this geographically diverse and topographically challenging county was battle scarred by shifting allegiances and treachery between the Gaelic lords, Anglo-Normans and English settlers.

The history of Powerscourt, or Stagonil as the area was originally known, really commences with the building of a fortification by the Normans in the late 13th century. The first stronghold was probably an earthwork structure but by 1316 Balytenyth Castle was under the control of Eustace le Poer. This structure stood at the end of the granite ridge where Powerscourt House now stands. Four Le Poer brothers were sent by Henry II in Strongbow’s wake to protect his interests in Ireland. In the Calendar of State Papers for 1296 Eustace Le Poer was allowed have six stags and six hinds in the Royal Forest at Powerscourt. The Anglo-Normans hunted the great herds of native Irish Red Deer as well as Fallow Deer they introduced from the continent. However by 1235 the Deer Park had been abandoned due to attacks and poaching by the hungry native Irish.


In 1302 Geoffrey le Poer “requests the King’s grace as to the matter of the arrears of his rent for his land in Ballytenny”. In reply he was told “The King has pardoned all the arrears. He is to pay his rent in future.” Alan’s Black Book at the end of the reign of Edward II notes that the rent for Ballytenny was twenty shillings per annum. Geoffrey died in 1311, and his son, Arnold, seems to have assumed the name of FitzEustace, which was borne by his family until changed to Eustace soon after the introduction of surnames in 1465. He was Lord of the Manors of Oughterard and Castle Warden, thus showing that the Le Poers had spread north from Waterford into County Kildare by the end of the thirteenth century.

In 1316 Robert de Bruce invaded Ireland from Scotland and provided the Gaelic Lords with the perfect opportunity to pillage and take control of the areas under Anglo Norman control. The O’Byrnes from Glenmalure invaded north Wicklow, burning Bray and the neighbouring villages, including Stagonil and Killegar. By 1326 the Archbishop of Dublin described all his possessions in this area as “now worth nothing, because waste through war” and the king’s castle of Balytenyth was in ruins. Worse was to come for the Le Poers in 1328 when Arnold was imprisoned and later died in Dublin Castle accused of heresy following his support at her witch trial of Dame Alice Kytler who was married to another Le Poer. In 1345 Eustace de Poer, eldest son of Arnold and a Knight of the Golden Spur, joined the Earl of Desmond in rebellion, was taken prisoner while defending The Castle of the Island (Co. Kerry) and hung, drawn and quartered as a traitor and a rebel by order of the Lord Justice Ufford, and his estates were confiscated. Indicative of the shifting alliances and desperation of the English Government in 1355 it took the drastic step of employing the O’Tooles from West Wicklow as mercenaries, to protect the city of Dublin from the fury of the O’Byrnes.

The O’Tooles soon established themselves at Powerscourt and in 1390 showed their true allegiances (at least at that time) by counter attacking the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, after he took the O’Byrne Castle at Wicklow Town, and spiking sixty English heads on the gates of their castle at Powerscourt.

heads_on_spikes_Dublin_Castle.jpgHeads on Spikes at Dublin Castle

The O'Byrnes and O'Tooles now marched against the English killing the Lord Lieutenant and taking the mountainous area around Powerscourt away from the English Crown. The O’Tooles continued to extract protection money from Dublin and it was not until the 1490’s that the powerful Earl of Kildare began to turn the tide against the native Irish and reinforced his power by putting troops in a number of strongholds including Powerscourt. Indeed he spent almost 5,000 marks building the Castle at Powerscourt. After the unsuccessful Fitzgerald rebellion of 1535 Turlough O’Toole took back control of the area and went to London to meet with Henry VIII, but was later killed by O’Toole relatives in the Glen of Imaal.


Though the isolated and virtually impregnable Wicklow Mountains seemed a long way from the Royal Courts of Europe the political machinations of Spain and England were to have far reaching consequences for the native Irish. In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailing from a Spanish port and discovered the West Indies. Five years later John Cabot, sailing from the English port of Bristol, discovered Newfoundland. There followed a century of rivalry between Spain and England for control of the sea routes to America, which turned to bitter war after the accession of Elizabeth I. The queen encouraged the revolt of Philip of Spain’s subjects in the Netherlands and Philip encouraged her rebellious subjects in Ireland.

Because the queen feared that Ireland would be used as a base by the Spanish enemies, the English government was driven to the savage subjugation and plantation of Ireland. The conquest of Munster and of Ulster was followed by “plantation” of these provinces by landlords from England or Scotland, and much the same happened here North Wicklow, where neither the O’Tooles nor the O’Byrnes were ever completely trusted.

In 1578 the Crown tried to shire Wicklow (the last county in Ireland to have its county boundaries defined) but the Lord Justice Sir William Drury said that “finding that there were not sufficient, and fewer gentlemen to be shriffes (sic sherriffs), nor freeholders to make a jury for her Majiestie (sic) the matter was let drop”! However the Seneschal Sir Henry Harrington was instructed when dealing with the native Irish to "Fyrst that you cause proclamacion to be made that no idele persone, vagabonde or masterlesse man, barde rymoure, or any other notorious or detected malefactor do haunte, remaine, or abyde within the limits and bondes of your authoritee". (Singers and poets were clearly not to be trusted!).

bard1.jpgGaelic Bard

It goes on to give him permission to administer; " correction as you shall in good discreation appoint" and that it would be lawful: “.....for you be vertue of this commission to execute him marshally".

Richard-Wingfield-236x300.jpgRichard Winfield 1st Viscount Powerscourt

Among the O’Byrnes it was Fiach McHugh O’Byrne who rose to particular prominence after he drew a large English Force into Glenmalure Valley and decimated the troops. Following his beheading in 1597 his sons defeated Sir Henry Harrington and his army at Deputy’s Pass, between Rathdrum and Wicklow town. The O’Tooles and O’Byrne’s remained in control of the area until the early 17th century, when the lands were granted to Richard Wingfield, who was created Viscount Powerscourt in 1618. The two clans did remain a force in the Wicklow Mountains until the 1650s, when Luke O'Toole of Castlekevin and Brian O'Byrne of Glenmalure (Fiach's grandson), were prominent fighters against the Cromwellians.




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Topics: Powerscourt Estate

The Purrfect Pet from the Pavilion!

Posted by Carmel Byrne on Feb 10, 2016 3:34:37 PM


Introducing Milly!

We have always had a number of feral cats living here at Powerscourt Estate. They are usually found hanging out in the old farm buildings and whilst they serve a purpose in keeping the mice count down we felt it was time to address the issue from a humane point of few. It was heart breaking to see kittens having kittens and then not being able to look after them. My colleague Brenda approached the management team here at Powerscourt and they gave us their full support to undertake a neutering program. We found a wonderful veterinary practice in Roundwood and Bernie and her team agreed to help us out, without costing an arm and a leg! I volunteered to drop the cats in and collect them as I was passing by on my way home.

The first couple were successfully neutered and released back without any drama. I got a call from Justin in the Garden Pavilion to say he had trapped a kitten but it was very small. I called over to collect it on my way home to drop it in to the vets and when I saw the little mite I felt quite emotional. She was so tiny, a jet black ball of shivering fur curled up in the cat trap. It hissed a little as I placed her in the boot of the car, but I never hear another peep out of her all the way to Roundwood. When I got to the vets I left her in the care of the staff but I just couldn’t get her out of my mind. Bernie phoned to say she was a little on the small side but she would go ahead with neutering her, but she had to keep her for an extra night as she was so tiny. Her size indicated a kitten of about 3 months old but she was in fact about 5 months! The following day we trapped the mother and she was quite the opposite well fed and well able to live at the Garden Pavilion! Again I dropped her into the vets and agreed to collect her and the kitten on Saturday morning. I planned to keep them both for the weekend and release them out on Monday. A very different story unfolded.

 I collected them both on Saturday morning and admittedly I was even afraid of the mother feline as she was well and truly wild. The little black kitten on the other hand looked more vulnerable than ever with her bare patch and stitches. I knew I hadn’t the heart to let her back out! Mother cat was getting anxious in the cage and unfortunately I could not let her out as she was too wild to handle, so myself and my two kiddies brought her back to Powerscourt on Sunday morning. My son was concerned that she would bite me when I was holding the cage open but I explained to him that she was planning her escape and not too concerned about my hand. With that she bolted and was gone. The staff in the Garden Pavilion still leave food out for her and the other cats everyday especially as the weather has been so cold.

 We now knew the kitten was female and I had agreed to keep her at home to build her up a bit, but in the back of my mind I knew I wasn’t going to let her go. I didn’t want to build up the children’s hopes just in case things didn’t work out. Rather than having her in the cage that we caught her in we decided to try her in a hamster cage that we had at home. She was so tiny in the hamster cage but she was a lot more content. She used her litter tray immediately and lapped up the warm milk with great gusto. After a couple of days we decided to try and pet her and although she cowered away there was no loss of anyone’s fingers. We did this everyday so she got used to us and each day she got more used the noise and hustle and bustle of a busy household. At this stage it was obvious she was going nowhere so we named her Tilly.

With every passing day she gained weight and grew bigger and is now a member of the family. She sleeps by day under the duvet in the bedroom and in the evening when we arrive home she is hugged, kissed, petted and played with! There are times when she just wants her quiet time and sits on my shoulders and sings but early in the morning she has great energy and is like a bolt of lightning running around the kitchen. She loves chasing shadows, playing ball and playing hard to catch! She is still nervous of outside but in time we will introduce her to a whole new world of adventure and discovery. (For further tips of taming).

 Thanks to my colleague Brenda for initiating this program, to Justin Smyth in the Garden Pavilion for helping us to catch them, to Powerscourt Management for covering the cost of the programme and an especially big thank you goes to Tess and Finn for their patience and love for Tilly, they have done me proud.

 Now is the perfect time to trap and neuter cats before they have Spring kittens.  “Feral” cats are abandoned cats or the offspring of abandoned cats and are not vermin. They are sentient creatures as entitled to life as any “tame” pet. Neutering not only prevents more kittens but it also reduces straying and fighting, and marking by male cats. Contact your local vets and they can refer you to a charity who can loan you a trap and can often help you find a vet offering reduced cost neutering. Roundwood Vets have been very good to us. (It has been relatively easy to “tame” Tilly, using the hamster cage (or a dog crate would work too) to let her experience family life while feeling safe with her own space. Children should be supervised with kittens as the kittens are so delicate and can scratch if they are frightened (when they are sitting on your lap and purring and grip you with their claws this is actually showing affection!). Do share us your stories! For more feral cats advice see


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Topics: Powerscourt Garden Pavilion

Daniel O'Donnell & Friends St. Stephen's Day Showcase at Powerscourt House

Posted by Brenda Comerford on Jan 6, 2016 10:52:38 AM

Blog Post by Kerry Gordon




It was an absolute pleasure to finish off my third year of blogging for Powerscourt Estate and Gardens with the wonderful opportunity to watch the filming of a St Stephen’s Day RTE TV special, Daniel O'Donnell and Friends. With Powerscourt House sparkling with festive glee it was a showcase of duets with Daniel and other performers - and a bit of magic and chat included too!



Powerscourt House has often been used in major films and TV shows but there was something extraordinary about seeing Ireland’s beloved Daniel O’Donnell performing to a crowd of his wonderful fans. Great singers Shane Filan, Una Foden, Declan Nearney and Derek Ryan had the crowd singing and dancing.


Kristina Rihanoff from Strictly Come Dancing performed the American Smooth one more time with Daniel, Keith Barry was up to trickery with Majella O’Donnell, Pat Shortt popped in to surprise us all and Packie Bonner was happy for a chat with his neighbour Daniel.




Daniel O’Donnell’s supporters and fans are amongst the best in the world and the atmosphere was one of the warmest and happiest I have ever encountered.


Daniel’s loyal fans proved their worth on St Stephen’s Day as Daniel O’Donnell and Friends, was the most watched entertainment show of the evening in Ireland with 391,200 viewers tuning in!


Powerscourt looked beautiful and full of Christmas Joy. Thank you to RTE and Big Mountain Productions for a fabulous Christmas Special.



Happy New Year!


Daniel’s official website with details of his tour dates and fan club is here

With thanks to

You can watch the show on RTE Player

About Kerry Gordon:

Kerry Gordon lives by the sea in Co. Wicklow, Ireland with her daughter Molly and greyhound Lola. She is a long term blogger for Powerscourt Estate and Gardens and enjoys nothing more than visiting Powerscourt Waterfall, walking Powerscourt Gardens, followed by a tasty scone and pot of tea in Avoca at Powerscourt House. 

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Topics: Powerscourt Estate, Guest Blog, Events, Powerscourt House

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