Restoration of the Walled Garden

close up image of a flower

The Walled Garden is rich in natural beauty and history and tells a number of fascinating stories from that of its horticultural origins and the Colclough family history down to the story of its recent restoration and those who have brought this 200 year old garden back to life after too many years in dereliction.

A crucial part of any restoration project is the research that underpins it and references to Tintern’s Walled Garden abound.

The first known mention of the garden was in ‘The Irish Tourist’ by A Atkinson in 1814 where he describes: “Lady Catherine Colclough had the politeness to show me a very beautiful and fruitful walled garden, of two or three acres, enclosed by a handsome brick wall, and abounding with the delicacies of the season, an object which I had little expectation of enjoying when I drove to Tintern, as that castle, by a combination of family circumstances, had not been for some time the regular residence of the Colclough family. I observed with pleasure, the proofs which the open aspect of the garden exhibited, of the taste and judgement of its manager.” This was adopted as the goal of the restoration project.

It is also recorded that Caesar Colclough remarked to his friend Tom Boyce after his return from captivity that he “ate more fresh fruit in a day at Tintern than he had been able to get in a year in France”.

John Bernard Trotter who wrote “Walks in Ireland 1812, 1814”; published in 1819, visited Tintern in June 1812.

“We have employed several days in enjoying; the beauties of Tintern and its environs, and experienced much civility from Lady Colclough, the present, venerable lady of the abbey mansion; from her worthy agent, and from the clergyman of Tintern, Mr. Archdall, and also from the friendly priest of this parish, Mr. Doyle. Mr. Archdall `s church is absolutely buried in trees, and is highly picturesque. The Priest lives three miles from this, and has a very genteel house and handsome gardens.” June 27, 1812

The Walled Garden is briefly described in The Beauties of Ireland by James N Brewer published in 1825 in which he described the gardens as being “entirely enclosed with long ranges of substantial wall”.

J Goff of Horetown House managed the Tintern Estate as agent from 1831-1840. Correspondence between Caesar and his agent during this period survives in the National Library of Ireland and mentions various plants growing in the gardens at Tintern during this period such as Geraniums, Carnations and Daphne.

“My wife requests you to send us some slips of Daphne, the small leaved one, not the large leaved one”.

The restoration team also has original receipts for the purchase of fruit trees from Fennessy Nursery in Waterford and Miller and Sweets Nursery in Bristol which were rescued by local passer-byes from bonfires of family papers when the abbey was cleaned out by Miss Colclough steward in 1959. Miss Colclough wanted the abbey neat and tidy before it ownership was transferred.

John Claudius Loudon’s ‘An Encyclopaedia of Gardening’ written in 1825 has also guided the restoration project by teaching the gardeners the techniques of the day.

The most comprehensive and significant document to be uncovered from the point of view of the pending restoration was the Ordnance survey 6” map of 1840 which surveyed Tintern around 1838 and shows the layout of the Walled Garden, with path structure and positions of plants visible.
While A Atkinson’s evocative description of a ‘beautiful and fruitful’ garden provided the inspiration for the restoration, this ordnance survey map provided framework for the restoration.

In addition to Trotter, Atkinson and Shoemaker many other famous visitors have called to Tintern over the years including the writers Richard Pococke, who wrote “Pococke’s Tour of Ireland 1752 and the antiquarians Barralet and Beranger visiting in 1780. Painters such as Robert O’Callaghan Newham, John Windele, Joseph Turner and Charles Newport Bolton also came to Tintern such was its renown and charm. Photographers too have visited including the famous photographer Robert French, whose photos can be seen in the Lawrence collection (1870), the Waterford based photographer, A.H. Poole, who compiled the Poole collection (1880) and Father Brown, of Titanic fame, visited Tintern in the 1930’s and took several photos. Frustratingly for the restoration theme, no known photographs of the walled garden survive.