Celebrating the Irish Country House Garden
Posted by IGS
From 23rd September to late November, the IGS is hosting Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland's Walled Gardens. Click here to learn more.
Abbey Leix, County Laois
Maria Levinge (Stepping through the Gate, Inside Ireland’s Walled Gardens)
Abbey Leix was designed in 1773 by fashionable London architect James Wyatt for Thomas Vesey, second Lord Knapton, who became first Viscount de Vesci three years later. The house, as originally built, was an elegant three-storey Classical mansion of seven bays, the three at the centre under a pedi ment. Alterations and extensions were made to the property in the mid-19th century by the third Viscount whose wife Emma laid out a series of terraces to the rear; these are said to have been inspired by the terraces at Alupka in the Crimea, the palace of Lady de Vesci’s grandfather, Prince Worontsov.
In 1995 Abbey Leix was bought by Sir David Davies, now President of the Irish Georgian Society, who embarked on a spectacular restoration, not just of the house but also the demesne, throughout which he has planted a vast number of specimen trees, as well as creating a new arboretum and a new pinetum. The estate’s walled garden, which is accessed via a wrought-iron gate incorporating Emma de Vesci’s initials, lies to the north-west of house and is divided into four compartments, which prior to 1995 had been used as a horse paddock. Each of the four sections now has its own distinctive character, one being planted with Norwegian maple in the geometric pattern of a repeating quincunx, another serves as a ‘Connoisseurs’ Walk featuring many rare plants. Of the other two, one, which contains the frame of the former greenhouses, is a working nursery while the other, seen in this painting, serves as a cut flower garden. In the centre of the space, a low polygonal plinth holds a sundial; designed by Sir Mark Lennox Boyd and presented to Sir David Davies on his 70th birthday by Dame Vivien Duffield.
The Irish Georgian Society is most grateful to Susan Burke and her late husband Coley who were the inspiration for and provided generous funding for these exhibitions. We also wish to thank the Apollo Foundation, Northern Trust Corporation, Beth Dater, Sheila O’Malley Fuchs, Hindman Auctions, Kay and the late Fred Krehbiel, Jay & Silvia Krehbiel, Frank Saul, John & Nonie Sullivan, Robert & Gloria Turner, and The Heritage Council.