A little bit of History

Posted by on Sep 12, 2016 in Ballyin Gardens | 0 comments

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According to the local history books, Ballyin was one of the thirteen castles built by the Great Earl of Cork. This would date the original buildings to about the 1630’s. Given its proximity to Lismore Castle, the Earl’s principal stronghold, Ballyin was probably just a fortified outpost – nevertheless of some size as can be seen by viewing the original wall of the fortification and the Bell Tower from the Kitchen Garden.

Ballyin remained part of the Lismore Castle estate, now the Irish seat of the Dukes of Devonshire, until purchased by its present owners in 1983. Under the Castle’s regime, it was let on long leases to tenants who developed the buildings and maintained the property. There is some indication that monks were residing there in the late 1600’s, but by the 1740’s a sizeable house had been built significant enough to be referred to in a local history book as the “seat” of Richard Musgrave. At that time Ballyin was renowned for the vegetables grown there – as it is now! The main gardens were probably laid out in the 1730’s and 1740’s.

Ballyin was the home of various members of the Musgrave family for most of the 1700’s. The last member of the family to reside there died in 1800 by which time the Gardens had become well established and were further enhanced by the next tenant, Dean John Scott, the Dean of Lismore Cathedral, who was probably responsible for many of the North American trees still to be seen in the Gardens. At that time, the Gardens were said to provide “a relief to the mind to wander through this charming spot”. They were known locally as “the Dean’s Gardens”.

The Deanery was moved into Lismore when the main house was accidentally destroyed by fire in 1826, leaving the two wings which were eventually converted into separate houses and were used by Lismore Castle estate to house its Agents and Managers. During the remainder of the century and up until 1914, the Gardens were maintained by the Castle gardeners and were open to the public. They were described as a sight which no visitor to Lismore ever missed. Among the more notable visitors were King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra who walked the Gardens during their visit to Lismore in 1906.
The Gardens were closed and left derelict during the First World War and the Civil War but were rescued and restored to their former glory by Lady Gordon who lived at Ballyin from the late 1920’s until her death in 1945. Much of what we see today is thanks to her, especially the walks and views of the river, although she might not recognise some areas which have had to be replanted following storm damage in recent years. Nevertheless, every effort has been and continues to be made to maintain the calm and peaceful ambiance for which the Gardens have always been renowned.