The Walled Garden
Walled Gardens in the stately homes of Ireland were the source of fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers for the family as well as for the staff that were employed on the estate. In many cases excess food was also sold at local markets. These gardens were built with high walls of about 3.5 metres to keep out animals and other unwanted visitors and also avoid frost and wind while capturing the heat from the sun for better growth. In the case of Woodhouse the walled garden has been a vital part of the estate for several hundred years.
Unfortunately, the Woodhouse walled garden – which is approximately one and a half acres in size – had not been used for growing food for over 40 years and, as a result, it had deteriorated badly. Many of the walls had collapsed and had not been repaired. When Woodhouse changed hands in 2012 a project was undertaken to bring the walled garden back to its former glory.
The Walled Garden Restoration
The project to rebuild the walls was started on July 12th, 2013. The original completion estimate was, that due to its terrible condition (see photos), it would take over a year to complete. However, the work progressed well and the walls of the main garden were completed in less than six months with the majority of the orchard wall completed in less than a year.
The task was undertaken by eight stonemasons supported by three labourers. Leading the project was P.J. (Paddy) Kiely who had a major role in the restoration of other parts of the Woodhouse estate.
Due to the serious deterioration of the vast majority of the walls, Paddy, assisted by one of his workers, Declan O’Brien, had to break down much of the wall that hadn’t collapsed because it was deemed unsafe. The age of the walls as well as the relatively poor quality of the mortar used in years past, was the main reason for the deterioration. Paddy and Declan salvaged those bricks and stones that were still useful for the stonemasons that were working behind them.
The outer wall was built with stone but the inner wall was built with brick. This brick allowed the South facing wall to maximize and retain the heat from the sun. Most of that wall had to be totally rebuilt with new material and an effort was made to source good bricks to match the existing wall that hadn’t fallen.
Paddy was unable to find salvaged bricks for all of the 450 metres of wall but he managed to source comparable bricks from factories in Yorkshire in England. One type of brick was called ‘Coalflec’ and the other was called ‘Garden Wall’. These bricks were blended with bricks from the original wall to give the nice effect of looking like the wall that had been built hundreds of years ago. Interestingly the original bricks used to build the walls in centuries past also came by ship from England and were recycled brick at that time
The walls that were made of stone were originally built with local blue stone. This blue colour was caused by the copper element in the local stone on the Copper Coast of Ireland. The quarry adjacent to Woodhouse closed some years ago but after much searching Paddy was able to find the right stone from Kent’s quarry in Kilmacow in Waterford. They eventually supplied hundreds of tonnes of stone for numerous projects at Woodhouse over the years of the renovation project.
Today the Walled Garden and Orchard have a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and many types of flowers and, thanks to Paddy Kiely and his excellent team of skilled workmen, has developed in a place of beauty in tune with nature as it was planned when originally built.
Information kindly provided buy P J Kiely Construction Kinckeylan Lemybrien Co Waterford.