The facade at Powerscourt.
|Town or city||Enniskerry, County Wicklow|
|Client||Richard Wingfield, 3rd Viscount Powerscourt|
|Design and construction|
Powerscourt Estate (Irish: Eastát Chúirt an Phaoraigh), located in Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland, is a large country estate which is noted for its house and landscaped gardens, today occupying 19 hectares (47 acres). The house, originally a 13th-century castle, was extensively altered during the 18th century by German architect Richard Cassels, starting in 1731 and finishing in 1741. A fire in 1974 left the house lying as a shell until it was renovated in 1996.
The original owner of the 13th-century castle was a man by the name of La Poer, which was eventually anglicised to "Power." The castle's position was of strategic military importance because the castle's owner could control access to the nearby Dargle, Glencree and Glencullen rivers.
The three-story house had at least 68 rooms. The entrance hall, where family heirlooms were displayed, was 18 metres (60 ft) long and 12 metres (40 ft) wide. The main reception rooms were on the first floor rather than on the ground floor, the more typical location. A mile-long avenue of beech trees leads to the house.
Powerscourt House was extensively altered during the 18th century by German architect Richard Cassels, starting in 1731 and finishing in 1741.
On a commanding hilltop position, Richard Cassels deviated slightly from his usual sombre style, giving the house something of what John Vanbrugh would have called the 'castle air.' This is most noticeable in the structure's severe palladian facade bookended by two circular domed towers.
King George IV was the guest of Richard Wingfield, fifth Viscount Powerscourt in August 1821. In the 1830s, the house was the venue for a number of conferences on unfulfilled Bible prophecies, which were attended by men such as John Nelson Darby and Edward Irving. These conferences were held under the auspices of Theodosia Wingfield Powerscourt, then the dowager Lady Powerscourt. Her letters and papers were republished in 2004, including summaries of the Powerscourt prophetic conferences.
Mervyn Wingfield, seventh Viscount Powerscourt, inherited the title and the Powerscourt estate, which comprised 200 km² (49,000 acres) of land in Ireland, 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, Triton Lake, pet cemetery, Dolphin Pond, walled gardens, Bamberg Gate and the Italian Garden. The Pepperpot Tower is said to be designed after a favoured 3-inch pepperpot of Lady Wingfield. 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.
20th century fire and renovation
In 1961, the estate, was sold by the 9th Viscount, Mervyn Patrick Wingfield, to the Slazenger family, who still own it to this day (2014). Wendy Slazenger, daughter of the late Ralph Slazenger, married the 10th Viscount, Mervyn Niall Wingfield, in 1962. Through her children, the Hon. Mervyn Anthony Wingfield and the Hon. Julia Wingfield, there remains a strong connection between the two families and Powerscourt Estate.
The house was destroyed by fire on the 4th of November 1974, while it was owned by the Slazenger family, and was subsequently renovated in 1996. 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. In 2011, the Lonely Planet Voted Powerscourt in the Top Ten Houses in the World while in 2014 the National Geographic listed Powerscourt as no. 3 in the World's Top Ten Gardens.
Tara's Palace Museum of Childhood
Tara's Palace Museum of Childhood relocated from Malahide Castle near Dublin to Powerscourt House in June 2011. The museum features dollhouses, miniatures, dolls, historic toys and Tara's Palace, one of the greatest dollhouses in the world, on a par with the Fairy Castle at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois and Queen Mary's Dolls' House at Windsor Castle.
Powerscourt Waterfall and its surrounding valley are also owned by the Powerscourt estate, although the two pieces of land are no longer directly connected. At 121 metres, it is the highest waterfall in Ireland. In 1858, the seventh Viscount Powerscourt established a deer park around the waterfall, resulting in the successful introduction of the Japanese Sika to Ireland.
Regular bus service from Powerscourt to the waterfall was discontinued in 2005, though during the high summer season, intermittent bus services are still available. The waterfall is seven kilometres from Enniskerry, and walkable. While the distance is not prohibitive, walking can be dangerous, as the road is narrow, and lacks a shoulder for long stretches.
A separate entrance fee is required for access to the waterfall, ranging from €3.50 (children) to €5.50 (adults).
- The house was used as a filming location most famously in Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, which was filmed there before the 1974 fire.
- The Slazenger family invited Lynn Garrison to relocate his aerial film unit, aircraft collection and hangars, from Liexlip to the Powersourt airfield in 1973. The collection would feature in Irish productions, including the Blue Max, Darling Lili, Zeppelin and Von Richthofen and Brown. It remained here until 1981.
- The estate was used as a backdrop and ancestral home of the "Artist" and Moll Flanders love interest in the film Moll Flanders.
- The 2002 version of The Count of Monte Cristo was filmed there.
- David Copperfield was filmed there in 2000.
- Where's Jack? was filmed there in 1969.
- Outdoor scenes for the 2005 film The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse, involving William III of England (aka "Good King Billy") played by Bernard Hill and Queen Mary II played by Victoria Wood.
- A key scene from the 1981 film Excalibur where Arthur fights Lancelot was filmed at the Waterfall.
- Powerscourt House is the ancestral home of the fictional Lord Francis Powerscourt in David Dickinson's series of novels about the Victorian detective (Goodnight Sweet Prince, Death And The Jubilee, Death Called To The Bar).
- The gardens were used to record Celtic Woman's Songs from the Heart DVD and TV special.
- The Hallmark Channel original film "Honeymoon for One", starring Nicollette Sheridan was filmed at the estate using external scenes of the house and the waterfall. The film's plot included a fight between the owners of "Castlewilde" (Powerscourt) and local citizens concerned about the building of a golf course, which the real estate has.
- Official website
- Tara's Palace Museum of Childhood
- The Powerscourt Hotel
- Powerscourt @ Wicklow Tourism