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Building of the Month - October 2008

Heywood Gardens, HAYWOOD DEMESNE Td., County Laois

Heywood Gardens 01 - Plan 

Figure 1: The plan for Lutyen's scheme for the gardens at Heywood depicting its relationship with the house that is now long gone

The early years of the twentieth century, up to the start of the First World War, is the last great period of country house building on these islands.  Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) was one of the period's most noted architects, his designs reflecting the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement.  At the age of twenty, Lutyens met the forty-six year old garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), with whom he collaborated on many projects.

Heywood was an interesting project as there was already a significant eighteenth-century garden, in the Romantic tradition, on the site.  The first reference to the estate is in 1763.  By 1773 Michael Frederick Trench (1746-1836), barrister and amateur architect, had built for himself a new house overlooking the steeply falling ground with woodlands and a string of lakes, created at the bottom of the valley by the construction of three dams.  Placed around the estate are a number of follies, a sham ruin made up of architectural fragments salvaged from the nearby fourteenth-century Aghaboe Friary, a sham castle and a Gothic orangery.  A castellated gate served as the main entrance to the estate.  The first edition of the Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1839; published 1841) shows the estate in all its picturesque glory.

Trench's great granddaughter Mary Adelaide married, in 1886, Lieutenant Colonel William Hutchinson Poë.  In 1906 they commissioned Lutyens and Jekyll to design a new garden (fig. 1).  This was built immediately around the old house, in a number of compartments, creating a series of almost secret gardens.  To the south, the steeply sloping ground was cut back to create a terrace with a central lawn flanked by herbaceous borders, supported by a high, heavily buttressed, stone wall, overlooking the earlier landscape.

Heywood Gardens 02 - Pleached Lime Trees 

Figure 2: The final reminder of a once-glorious estate, the gardens were planned by Lutyens as the successor to an eighteenth-century scheme by Michael Frederick Trench (1746-1836)

Moving east, an alley of pleached lime trees (fig. 2) leads to an oval sunken Italianate garden, tiered down to an oval pool with central fountain, guarded by stone turtles (fig. 3).  A loggia is sited at its eastern end (fig. 4).  A yew garden provided an alternative route, stepping down from the east end of the house.

Heywood Gardens 03 - Italianate Garden Heywood Gardens 04 - Loggia

Figures 3-4: The centrepiece of Lutyen's design was the Italianate garden, planned around a central fountain in a concentric circle arrangement

To the west, a pergola of Ionic columns and oak beams hangs almost directly over the lakes (fig. 5).  Each compartment has its own very particular atmosphere, from intimacy to great open expansive views.

Heywood Gardens 05 - Pergola 

Figure 5: Lutyen's pergola incorporates salvaged columns of uncertain provenance.  Folklore suggests that they were once part of a garden temple in the grounds or that they were reclaimed from the burnt-out Parliament House (now Bank of Ireland), College Green, Dublin

The house was destroyed by fire in 1950 but happily the garden survived and was maintained by the Salesian Fathers until it was taken into state care by the Office of Public Works and reopened to the public in 1994.

Click here to view all of the records for the gardens at Heywood in the NIAH Laois County Survey

William Cumming, Senior Architect, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

All photography by Patrick Donald from the NIAH publication An Introduction to the Architectural Heritage of County Laois

Heywood Gardens 06 - Introduction 

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