Celebrating Edwin Lutyens
Sir Edwin Lutyens’ works in Ireland, are a little more extensive than the often quoted two; namely the Irish National War Memorial Gardens, in Islandbridge, and our very own Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill, Co. Laois.
The portfolio is more extensive than that, when one considers Tranarossan House, Co. Donegal, and the transformation of Joseph Bruce Ismay’s, fishing lodge into a holiday villa, in Connemara; the timing of which facilitated Ismay retiring there, after the Titanic disaster in 1912, to mention but two.
The gardens at Ismay’s villa were landscaped by renowned British horticulturist and garden landscaper, Gertrude Jekyll, who also collaborated with Lutyens, at Heywood Gardens. She was as influential and inspirational in the field of garden landscaping, as Lutyens was to the art of architecture, and their association with Heywood Gardens, is indeed to be cherished.
Twin Trees Heywood Festival
And cherish it, we do! The inaugural Twin Trees Heywood Festival, being held in Ballinakill, Co. Laois, from August 22nd – 25th, whilst not forgetting the contribution of Gertrude Jekyll, is all about celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Lutyens was born on March 29th 1869, at Kensington London, the tenth of thirteen children. Lutyens mother, Margaret Gallwey, was Irish, her family hailing from Killarney, Co. Kerry, though Margaret (who was known as Mary) was born in Ballincollig, Co. Cork, in 1833.
She married soldier and painter, Charles Lutyens, in Montreal in 1852, and Edwin was named after his father’s friend, the well known sculptor and painter, Edwin Henry Landseer. Despite the rather grand moniker of Edwin Landseer Lutyens, that would eventually be prefixed with a knighthood Sir, it seems Edwin was popularly known as ‘Ned’. He was by most accounts a shy individual, but also had a reputation for his quick wit and high spirits.
Lutyens, who as a result of having suffered with rheumatic fever, overcame a lesser education than his siblings, to study at the Royal College of Art, in London. In 1887 he joined a firm of architects, but left shortly afterwards to set up his own practise. His early works deviated little from the traditional architecture of his immediate Surrey surroundings. But all of this would change when he met Gertrude Jekyll, who schooled him in the “simplicity of intention and directness of purpose” that she herself had learned from art critic, John Ruskin.
Munstead Wood, Godalming, Surrey, is the the house where Lutyens first displayed his own style of architecture in 1896. So many of what would become Lutyen’s traits, were in evidence; such as a sweeping roof, buttressed chimneys, small doorways and long strips of windows. His collaboration with Jekyll on this project, was the beginning of a long and fruitful professional partnership, of which we have a truly fine example of at Heywood Gardens.
Heywood House had been built in 1773, by Michael Frederick Trench, with the help of his friend, and renowned architect, James Gandon.
Trench’s wife Anna Helena, died in 1831, and he himself, in April 1836, when the estate passed to Frederich W. Trench. Frederich W. Trench never married, and when he died, on 6th December 1859, so too did the Trench male line. Heywood Estate was then inherited by Compton W. Domville, who was married to Sarah Helena Trench.
On January 21st 1886, their daughter Mary Adelaide married W.H. Poe. They would subsequently have three children.
The commission for the elaborate formal garden at Heywood, was given to Lutyens, by Colonel William Hutchinson Poe, in 1906. Lutyens was immediately presented with numerous problems of topography
In the planning of this garden the problems presented by a difficult site were brilliantly turned to advantage. The main axis of the garden runs roughly east and west, between the old house and the edge of the escarpment. This edge Lutyens strengthened on the east, south and west with a massive buttressed revetment in very large slabs of roughly-finished stone quarried nearby, which towers like a cliff over a lake at the south-west corner. On this western side there are two terraces, the more northerly being near to where the west wing of the old house stood. The south-west terrace is perhaps three metres lower and overlooks the lake. Climbing plants shade this terrace, supported by a structure of Ionic columns and oak cross-beams, while at its nor thern end there is an apsidal niche with a statue. Directly south of the house is a central east-west terrace three metres wide. South of this again, but two metres lower, and extending to the south edge of the plateau, is a level lawn, edged with a wide stone-flagged path and herbaceous borders. The two levels are linked by two wide flights of steps supported on each side by stone bastions.
Source: Irish Arts Review Yearbook, (1991/1992), pp. 95-98
The above is only a brief extract of the meticulous detail, and expertise that constitutes the realisation and construction of such an elaborately beautiful garden; which today sits, as an orphan of the great estate house, it once flanked on three sides. Beautiful though it may be in its solitude, we can only wonder of its splendour, when viewed in unity with the house it was designed to compliment.
Lutyens paid his last visit to Heywood in 1912, at which time he was involved in the planning of the new Indian capital at Delhi. New Delhi is also known as Lutyens’ Delhi, such was his contribution, to the design and construction of the city. As the main architect in such buildings as the India Gate and the Viceroy’s House, which is today known as the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Lutyens’ legacy, is one of having created his own ‘new order of classical architecture, which has become known as the Delhi Order.’
Lutyens’ received a knighthood in 1918, was elected a Royal Academician in 1920, a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission in 1924, and his list of awards and recognitions include the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, and the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal.
Lutyens is remembered for ‘imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his era’. Architectural historian Gavin Stamp described him as “the greatest British architect of the twentieth (or of any other) century”, and English Heritage echoed the sentiment, identify him as “one of the greatest architects the country has ever produced”.
The works of Edwin Lutyens are appreciated, cherished and celebrated wherever they stand. In fact more than 500 of his creations have been placed on the National Heritage List for England.
Ballinakill’s association with Lutyens, has long been known in the realms of architectural and garden design appreciation. In the year of the 150th anniversary of his birth, it is our mission that anyone who has ever, (or never for that matter) set foot in Heywood Gardens, and those who will visit Heywood in the future, will know the exact calibre of what surrounds them.
The estate is steeped in history! We can name-drop Gandon, Jekyll and even Empress Elizabeth of Austria, who dined there, with M.F. Trench in 1879, but perhaps the greatest chapter of the story of the place, is that of Edwin Lutyens, and the garden he designed.
And it is there, in that very garden, one of the last vestiges of a Heywood from a very different age, that we will celebrate Lutyens, the visionary, the architect, the man.
Irish Arts Review Yearbook, (1991/1992), pp. 95-98
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