Events The Irish Country House Garden 1650-1950: Digging New Ground

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The Irish Country House Garden 1650-1950: Digging New Ground

22.11.2021, 10:00 A.M.


The Irish Georgian Society, in association with the Office of Public Works and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and with the support of its American members, presents The Irish Country House Garden 1650-1950: Digging New Ground.

This forms one part of the Society’s celebration of the Irish Country House Garden during 2021 and 2022 which also includes exhibitions in the City Assembly House, a dedicated book to be published in early 2022 and a television documentary that was produced in association with RTE and the OPW.

This one-day symposium, convened by Robert O'Byrne and Finola O'Kane, will take place at Dublin Castle’s Printworks on Wednesday 17th November 2021 (10am -5pm).

Distinguished speakers include: Vandra Costello; Stephen Daniels; Catherine FitzGerald; Laura Johnstone; Ruth Musielak; Thomas Pakenham; John Phibbs and Terence Reeves Smyth.

What gives the Irish country house garden its distinctive character? A verdant light, lush grass, bold trees and green-fingered generations of care. In 1972 Séamus Heaney, while staying in a Gloucestershire country house, defined his homeland as being ‘other than this mellowness, of topiary, lawn and brick’. For the Irish country house garden sits at a precise rond-point of nature, culture and history, and continues to be a place where the Irish, British and European horticultural traditions potently collide. This complex identity has often led historians to suppress any emerald-tinted concerns about land, property and empire, any uneasiness that might overshadow its charm or indeed threaten its survival. Yet those concerns also lend the Irish country house garden a strange beauty, as memory, pleasure and tragedy glide along its avenues and sidle through its glades.

Breaking new ground through the presentation of fresh material and research, this symposium will investigate the history, design and planting of the Irish country house garden from c.1650-1900.

It will consider garden-making as an art form in all its dimensions: plan, form, section, and relationship to buildings and/or natural features, as well as the colour, massing and individual habits of planting (trees, shrubbery and flowers).

Concerns relating to collecting, taste, fashion, patronage, gender and networks are anticipated. Although the larger scale of landscape design will be touched upon, the symposium primarily aims to address the smaller nature of gardens, and their many specific, often complex design concerns.

I come from scraggy farm and moss
Old patchworks that the pitch and toss
Of history have left dishevelled.
But here, for your sake, I have levelled
My cart-track voice to garden tones
Cobbled the bog with Cotswold stone

from A Peacock's Feather by Séamus Heaney, 1972.

Find the full conference programme by following the link below:

Digging New Ground Conference Programme


It is possible to attend the symposium in person in Dublin Castle (where government guidelines in place regarding Covid will be observed) or subscribe to receive a recording of the symposium.

Please be advised that this symposium will not be live streamed. A recording of the symposium will be issued the day after the symposium and be available to watch for a further seven days. All those who attend the symposium in person in Dublin Castle will also receive the recording. To view the password protected and non-downloadable recording, registration will be required by subscribers.

Dublin Castle symposium tickets cost €45
(to include access to the recording and tea and coffe. Please note lunch is not included). Subscription to a recording of the symposium alone costs €35.

Please not that all those attending the conference in person at Dublin Castle will be asked to present their Covid vaccination certificates on entry.

The Irish Georgian Society is most grateful to Susan Burke and her late husband Coleman who were the inspiration for and provided generous funding for the Society’s country house gardens initiatives. We also wish to thank the Apollo Foundation, Beth Dater, Northern Trust Corporation, Sheila O’Malley Fuchs, Frank Saul, Hindman Auctions, Kay and the late Fred Krehbiel, Jay & Silvia Krehbiel, John & Nonie Sullivan, Robert & Gloria Turner, Ecclesiastical Insurance, The Heritage Council, the Office of Public Works, and the Department of Local Government, Housing and Heritage.

Image: Clonbrock Photographic Collection (Dillon Family). Reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

Ecclesiastical New Logo 2021


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