Powerscourt: A Description and History of Powerscourt

Pdf Powerscourt, Viscount, A Description And Hstory Of Powerscourt, London: Mitchell And Hughes, 1903
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A Description And History of Powerscourt was written by the Mervyn Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powerscourt (1836-1904) in 1903 before he died the following year. The book describes the history of the Powerscourt estate from the time of the 12th century Norman invasion, the history of the Wingfield dynasty and his efforts to restore Powerscourt Estate, near Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, including its house and landscaped gardens.

When he was a young boy the estate passed to Mervyn Wingfield upon the death of his father Richard Wingfield, 6th Viscount Powercourt in 1844. The elder Wingfield had been elected MP for Bath in the British House of Commons (1837-1841). Richard Wingfield had married Lady Elizabeth Frances Charlotte, the daughter of Robert Jocelyn, 3rd Earl of Roden, a conservative MP and leading supporter of Irish Protestant causes. The eldest of Richard's three sons was Mervyn and when he reached his minority in 1857, he took control of the Powerscourt Estate which was in a state of disrepair and spent the remainder of his life renovating it.

The 1st Viscount Powercourt was Sir Richard Wingfield (1550-1636), originally from Suffolk , a distinguished Elizabethan military commander who was rewarded with the Powerscourt estate for his services in defeating the Gaelic Irish who rebelled during the Nine Year's War 1594–1603. The Powerscourt estate was originally the property of the Old English la Poer or Power family. The Powers are believed to have come to Ireland with Strongbow's Norman invasion in the 12th century. They lost control of their estate to the local Gaelic Irish O'Toole due to the subsequent decline of English power in Ireland resulting from the Black Death and the War of the Roses. The ownership remained disputed until Sir Richard was awarded it in 1609.

The elderly 7th Viscount describes his extensive renovations of the Powersourt Estate throughout his book. Among the features of the estate were the Tower Valley which included a stone tower, a Japanese themed garden, statues of winged horses, a Triton Lake , a cemetery for the family pets, the Bamberg Gate and an Italian style Garden. The stone tower was designed as replica of Lady Wingfield's three inch pepper-pot. The garden designs were influenced by the gardens of Versailles , Schönbrunn Palace in Austia and Schwetzingen Castle in Germany . The development of the gardens alone took twenty years to complete. The impressive 121 metre tall Powerscourt waterfall and valley was also the property of the Wingfield estate. Japanese Sike deer were successfully introduced to the deer park .

In the late 19th century the fortunes of landowning Anglo-Protestant dynasties like the Wingfields declined due to the agrarian agitation of the Land League and Irish Parliamentary Party of Charles Stuart Parnell. Estates like the Powerscourt Estate were broken up as a series of land reforms that enabled tenant farmers to buy their land.

The 7th Viscount Powerscourt died in 1904 not long after his book was published. His son, also named Mervyn, 8th Viscount Powercourt inherited the estate and was Lord Lieutenant of Wicklow from 1910 until the end of the Irish War of Independence in 1922 when the post was abolished. Following his death in 1947 the property passed to the 9th Viscount who served as a Major in the Royal Irish Regiment and 8th Hussars during World War II. The 9th Viscount sold the estate to the wealthy Slazenger family. Wendy Salzenger married his son, the 10th Viscount Powerscourt, in 1962 and the relationship between both Slazengers and Wingfields remains strong.

During the Irish Revolutionary period (1916-1922) many of the mansions of the former Anglo-Irish Protestant elite were targeted by Irish republican arsonists. Fortunately Powerscourt House remained untouched but it was gutted by fire in 1974 and remained a shell until 1996 when it was fully restored along with its neglected gardens. Today it is an important tourist attraction and is often featured in Irish movie productions.

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