Turtle Bunbury

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Wingfield, Viscounts Powerscourt of Co. Wicklow, Ireland


With thanks to Stephen D. Chanko, Philip and Susie Wingfield, Jocelyn Wingfield, Richard Wingfield and Art Kavanagh.

“Fidélité est de Dieu” (Fidelity is of God)

Powerscourt House is quite possibly the most famous Georgian house in Ireland. Built in the 1740s, the house was tragically devastated by fire in 1974. Now part of the MHL Collection and run by the Marriott, the estate takes its name from the de la Poer family who built a castle here in Norman times. In 1608, the property came to the possession of Sir Richard Wingfield, a prominent general in the English army. In time, the family received the honours of a Viscountcy. Their sons prospered both at home and overseas – one became Lord Byron’s closest friend, another hosted George IV to dinner. They continued to exert an influence on Irish affairs right through until the last century. The 8th Viscount’s great-granddaughter is Sarah, Duchess of York. The Slazengers of Powerscourt are closely related to the present Viscount.

White Knights of Suffolk

Wingfield the Saxon held honour and fee, ere William the Norman came over the sea.” So begins "Wingfield Muniments", the memoir of the 7th Viscount Powerscourt, published privately in 1894. The Viscount claimed descent from Robert de Wingfield, a Saxon living in Suffolk at the time of the Norman invasion of England in 1087. The Saxons, of course, were effectively defeated in a single battle by the Normans in 1066. In 1389, five generations after Robert, Sir John de Wingfield of Letheringham, MP for Suffolk, was knighted by Richard II.

Sir John’s grandson, Robert de Wingfield, was knighted in 1426, most probably at the behest of the wealthy Chancellor, Cardinal Henry Beaufort. Sir Robert’s wife Elizabeth was a daughter and co-heir of Sir Robert Goushill while her mother, Lady Elizabeth FitzAlan, was previously married to the disgraced Duke of Norfolk.

Robert died in 1431 and was succeeded at Letheringham by his eldest son, John Wingfield. When the War of the Roses erupted in 1455, the Wingfields served with the White Rose of York. His brother Robert Wingfield, who married Anne Harling, fought in the Yorkist army at the Battle of Towton, one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in Britain, which brought Edward of York to the throne as Edward IV in 1461. John was one of 16 men to be created Knights of the Bath at the Tower of London just before Edward IV's Coronation. In the Medieval Age, such a knighthood entitled Sir John to sit with the Lords. Robert served as the Comptroller of Edward IV's household from 1475-1481. A decade later, two more Wingfield brothers, Henry and Thomas, participated in another Yorkist triumph over the Lancastrians at the battle of Tewksbury; they too were knighted for their troubles 'in the field of Grafton besydes Tewksbury' on 4 May 1471. However, it was the Lancastrians under Henry Tudor (Henry VII) who ultimately won the Wars at Bosworth in 1485; one of Sir John’s twelve sons perished in the battle.[i] Like many a Yorkist family, the Wingfields soon found that the easiest path was simply to accept the new monarch and carry on.

The First Irish Connection

Towards the end of the 15th century, Sir John Wingfield’s ninth son, Lewis (or Ludovic), was Comptroller of the Household for the Bishop of Winchester, from whom he held a lease of the manor of Bishops Sutton in Hampshire. [ii] Upon his death in 1525, Lewis left the reversion of Sutton – and a goblet - to his 14-year-old eldest son Richard.

Lewis’s younger son George married a daughter of Sir Gilbert Gerrard, Master of the Rolls to Queen Elizabeth from 1581 to 1594. George’s son, another Richard Wingfield, married Honora, daughter and co-heir of the Hon. Teige O’Brien, and settled at Robertstown in Co. Limerick.

I am not yet sure how these Wingfields tie in with Jacques Wingfield (1519-1587) who was Constable of Dublin Castle and Master of the Ordinance in Ireland during the 1570s. He served at the battle of Glenmalure in August 1580, in which he was wounded. The following month he is thought to have been the Wingfield who disarmed the Italian garrison at Smerwick Harbour shortly before they were put to the sword by Raleigh. The effect of this massacre on Catholic Europe was comparable to the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris eight years earlier.

Another family member involved in Irish affairs at this time was Thomas Maria Wingfield who was knighted for his role in the capture and execution of the Wicklow cheiftain Feagh McHugh O'Byrne in 1597. He took command of the English crown expeditionary force after its commander, Henry Bagenal, was shot dead during the Battle of the Yellow Ford on 14 August 1598 while fighting a Gaelic Irish army under Hugh O'Neill and Hugh O’Donnell. It was a catastrophic defeat for the English who lost nearly 1500 dead.

Sir Richard Wingfield, Captain of Portsmouth

After twenty years in historical obscurity, Lewis’s eldest son Richard reappeared in 1544 when knighted for his part in the capture of Boulogne. He was subsequently captured by the French and imprisoned for 17 months but freed after payment of a large ransom. At about this time, he married Christiana, daughter of Sir William Fitzwilliam of Milton in Northampton. In 1551 he was appointed Captain of Portsmouth and, two years later, he secured the backing of his former Admiral, John Dudley, now Lord Protector and Duke of Northumberland, and was returned as MP for Portsmouth. Northumberland's fall after his attempt to make Lady Jane Grey the queen may have affected Richard's future. He was certainly relieved of his post early in Queen Mary’s reign, receiving a handsome annuity of £100 (c. €28,000 in 2005) for past services and went to sea again in 1557 as captain of the Swallow. Sir Richard died soon afterwards, possibly at sea or from an epidemic, as his widow was granted an annuity of £40 (c. €8000) compensation in 1559.


Sir Richard Wingfield, Knight Marshal of Ireland

Christina Wingfield’s brother was Sir William Fitzwilliam of Milton who served as Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1572 to 1575 and again from 1588 to 1594. It was in his service that Captain Wingfield’s eldest son, another Richard – the future Viscount Powerscourt – received his first lessons in military training. Young Richard went to Ireland with the Elizabethan army and fought in the Desmond Wars, a series of bloody but failed rebellions led by the FitzGeralds of Munster (under the Earl of Desmond) and Viscount Baltinglass that culminated in the seizure by the Tudor crown of 500,000 acres of southern Ireland. Richard also saw action in Flanders, France and Portugal, becoming a Lieutenant Colonel.

When O’Neill and O’Donnell launched their rebellion against the Crown in Ulster at the close of the 16th century, Richard distinguished himself in the ensuing conflict and was wounded. He is thought to have lost an arm or a hand, as per his portrait. Indeed, reading up on the Nine Years War in 2021, it struck me that he may well be the 'Captain Winfield’ who was shot in the elbow while serving under Sir John Norreys and fighting O'Neill’s men at the battle of Mullaghbrack (near modern-day Markethill) in County Armagh on 5 September 1595.

He was knighted in Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, on 9th November 1595 and served with Essex on the Expedition to Cadiz the following year. The story goes that when Queen Bess asked Wingfield what reward he would like, the suave soldier replied ‘The scarf your majesty wears will be sufficient reward for me’ the queen duly draped the scarf over his shoulder.

In 1600, Sir Richard was promoted Knight Marshal of the Queen’s Troops in Ireland, and given a retinue of fifty horses and a company of foot-soldiers. He subsequently led the army that routed the Spanish-Irish alliance in the battle of Kinsale. His signature is etched on the Articles of Surrender below those of Lord Deputy Mountjoy and the dashing Spanish commander, Don Juan Del Águila. James I confirmed Sir Richard’s position as Marshal and appointed him to the Privy Council. After the battle, Don Juan is said to have spent several months living in an ‘eclectic apartment’ on Portney's lane, Cork, where he enjoyed drinking wine and dancing with the merchants’ daughters.

“POWERSCOURT, a parish, in the barony of RATHDOWN, county of WICKLOW, and province of LEINSTER, 3 miles (W. S. W.) from Bray, on the road from Dublin, through the Scalp, to Roundwood; containing, with the town of Enniskerry (which is separately described), 4375 inhabitants. This place, which in the ecclesiastical records is called Stagonil, and in other authorities Templebeacon, takes its present name from the De la Poer family, to whom it was conveyed by marriage with the daughter of Milo de Cogan, one of the followers of Strongbow, who built a castle here to protect his territories from the incursions of the mountain septs of the surrounding district. The castle was, in 1535, surprised and taken by the Byrnes and O'Tooles, but was soon recovered by the English and subsequently granted by Hen. VIII. to a branch of the Talbot family, from whom it was taken, in 1556, by the Kavanaghs and garrisoned with 140 of that sept; but after an obstinate resistance it was taken by Sir George Stanley, and the garrison were sent prisoners to Dublin, where 74 of them were executed. In 1609, Jas. I. granted the castle and all the lands of Fercullen, with the exception of 1000 acres of the parish, now belonging to the Earl of Rathdown, to Sir Richard Wingfield, ancestor of the present Lord Powerscourt, as a reward for his services in suppressing a rebellion in Ulster raised by Sir Cahir O'Dogherty and Sir Nial O'Donell, in 1608, of whom the former was killed in the field, and the latter made prisoner in his camp: the lands were soon afterwards erected into a manor, and in 1618 the proprietor was created Viscount Powerscourt.”

(Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, published 1837).

The Acquisition of Powerscourt

One account suggests that Powerscourt and Fercullen belonged to Phelim O'Toole, a brother-in-law of Feagh McHugh O'Byrne, whose loyalty to either side was alwaysin doubt. In May 1603, Phelim was confronted by Jacques Wingfield and a band of Englishmen while riding at a place near Powerscourt known as the Killing Hollow. Phelim normally rode with a metal bridle and reins to prevent them being slashed in the event of an attack but, on this occasion, they were both made of leather. Jacques spotted a chance and cut the reins. Powerless to control his horse, Phelim, almost 80 years old, fell off and was duly hacked to death and beheaded by the Englishmen. Just over five months later, James I granted a lease of the manor of Powerscourt for 21 years to Sir Richard Wingfield. (NB: Jacques is apparently pronounced Jakes).

An alternative story is that he was rewarded with the land when he suppressed a rebellio in Ulster. When Sir Cahir O’Doherty destroyed the fledgling town of Derry in March 1608, Sir Richard marched an army north and annihilated the O’Dohertys, slaying Sir Cahir into the bargain and capturing his ally Sir Nial O'Donnell. He was rewarded the following year with a grant of the district of Fercullen, County Wicklow, containing the ancient de la Poer estate of Powerscourt. According to the Down Survey of 1653-57, the original grant was for an estate “five miles in length by four miles in breadth … said land being mostly mountainous and stony, and with a ruinous castle”. The estate, which originally belonged to the diocese of Glendalough, adjoined the beautifully situated village of Enniskerry, with the River Dargle running through. It included several crumbling medieval churches, a spiritual well, the mountains of Kippure, Tonduff and Glendoo and a boulder-strewn gorge carved by Ice Age meltwaters. At its centre was Glencree, once the heart of the O’Toole chieftains. He also received 800 acres in Co. Wexford, which he erected into the Manor of Wingfield, and, in 1610, the castle and 2000 acres at Benburb, Co. Tyrone, which is now a Servite Priory run by Our Lady of Sorrows (Province of the Servants of Mary), no less.

Viscount Powerscourt & the Cromwells

Sir Richard served on the government of Ireland in 1613 and again in 1626. On 19th February 1618 he was elevated to the Peerage of Ireland as Viscount Powerscourt. In later life he married Frances Cromwell, widow of a former soldiering colleague, Edward, Baron Cromwell. Frances’s father, William Rugge, came from a prominent Norfolk family. Sir Richard died without male heir in 1635 when the dignity of Viscount expired. His estates and wealth passed to his cousin, Sir Edward Wingfield.

Sir Edward Wingfield of Carnew

Sir Edward was the only son of Richard Wingfield by his wife Honora O’Brien. His parents’ marriage had ushered the Wingfields to the forefront of Tudor Ireland. Honora’s grandfather, Conor O’Brien, a descendent of Brian Boru, was the last of the Dalcassian Kings of Thomond. Sir Edward’s sister Honora was married to Donogh McConnor O’Brien of Lemenagh. The O’Briens immediate kinsfolk included such stalwarts of the new elite as the Knight of Glin, the Earl of Westmeath and Sir Thomas Cusack, Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Sir Edward himself enjoyed a distinguished career in the army, particularly during the Earl of Essex’s campaign, and was considered a person of great influence in Ireland. He settled near the Fitzwilliam estate at Carnew in Co. Wicklow. His wife Anne was a daughter of Lord Cromwell and stepdaughter of the aforementioned 1st Viscount Powerscourt. Sir Edward and Lady Wingfield had six sons and a daughter of whom the eldest son, Richard, and the third son, Edward, are relevant to this tale.

Bess Wingfield & the Ponsonby Connection

The eldest son Richard succeeded to Powerscourt on Sir Edward’s death in 1638. He was elected MP for Boyle the following year and in May 1640, he married Elizabeth (“Bess”), eldest daughter of Sir Henry Folliott, 1st Lord Folliott. He died in 1645, leaving a small daughter Anne and a three-year-old son with the imaginative name of Folliott Wingfield. With the Confederate Wars raging across Ireland, the 1640s was no time for a woman of substance to raise two small children on her own. The widowed Bess Wingfield was promptly married again, to Edward Trevor, brother of the 1st Viscount Dungannon. When Trevor died, she took a third husband in the promising form of Sir John Ponsonby. This hardy soldier from Cumberland had been sent to Ireland by Cromwell to investigate some shady depositions made by Irish Protestants alleging a series of murders said to have taken place during the 1642 – 1649 war. In 1654 Sir John was appointed Sheriff for both Counties Kilkenny and Wicklow. By the time of his death in 1668, he had acquired a substantial estate and fortune. These ultimately devolved upon his son by Lady Bess, William Ponsonby, who was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Duncannon.

Folliott Wingfield, Viscount Powerscourt

It may be assumed young Folliott Wingfield grew up at the home of his step-father, Sir John Ponsonby, at Kildalton in Co. Kilkenny. Sir John renamed Kildalton “Bessborough” in honour of Folliott’s mother. One of the younger man’s guardians was the Earl of Cork’s son, Lord Orrery. On 22nd February 1665, presumably helped by Ponsonby and Orrery’s friendship with Charles II, the Viscountcy of Powerscourt was revived in Folliott’s favour. Folliott married Orrery’s eldest daughter, Lady Elizabeth Boyle, but the marriage proved childless. Lady Bess died in October 1709 and the Viscount passed away in February 1717. Two years earlier, Folliott’s stepbrother William Ponsonby was sworn on to George I’s Privy Council and raised to the peerage as Baron Bessborough. William’s son, Brabazon Ponsonby, was created Earl of Bessborough in 1739.

[On 7 May 1716, John Medcalf, previously dismissed as Church of Ireland curate of Powerscourt for conducting clandestine marriages, was excommunicated for refusing to appear in the Consistory Court when cited by a woman for conjugal rights.]

Edward Wingfield, MP for Wicklow

The estates in Ireland duly passed to Folliott’s first cousin, Edward Wingfield. Edward’s father, Lewis, a younger son of Sir Edward and Lady Wingfield, had settled at Scurmore in Co. Sligo during the latter years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Edward’s mother, Sydney, was a daughter of another successful soldier of fortune, Sir Paul Gore of Manor Gore. Edward trained as a barrister in Dublin and was appointed MP for Co. Wicklow. He married his first cousin, Eleanor Gore, a daughter of Sir Arthur Gore of Newtown Gore, Co. Mayo, ancestor of the Earls of Arran. Edward and Eleanor had a son, Richard, 1st Viscount Powerscourt, and two daughters, Isabella and Sidney. In 1722, the elder daughter Isabella married Sir Henry King, MP for Boyle and Roscommon, who built King House in Roscommon. Isabella King was mother of the 1st Earl of Kingston, Grandmaster of the Freemasons of Ireland. In 1723, Isabella’s younger sister Sidney married Acheson Moore, MP of Aughnacloy, but died on 10th December 1727. After Eleanor’s death, Edward was married secondly to a daughter of Jonathan Swift’s close friend, Dr. William Lloyd, Bishop of Killala. However, the family was badly effected by the dreadful famine and pestilence which swept across Ireland in the winter of 1728. Following his sister Sidney’s death in December, Edward passed away on the 7th January and his wife just five days later.

Richard Wingfield & the Construction of Powerscourt House

The Powerscourt estates now settled on Edward’s only son, Richard Wingfield, MP. On 30th August 1721, he took as his first wife Anne Usher. Her father, Christopher Usher, was a far-sighted individual who oversaw and sponsored the extension of Dublin’s southern quays westwards to form Usher’s Quay and Usher’s Island. Anne seems to have died shortly after the wedding and, in April 1727, Richard married Dorothy Rowley, daughter of Hercules Rowley of Summerhill, Co. Meath. The following winter saw the demise of Edward’s father, stepmother and sister. His firstborn son Edward was born in October 1729.

Two years later, Richard commissioned the newly arrived German architect Richard Cassells to convert what remained of the original 13th century castle at Powerscourt into a sumptuous new Palladian villa. Cassels was also responsible for Leinster House and both buildings were inspired by the formal architecture of ancient Greek and Roman temples. Powerscourt House took eleven years to build but when the family moved into it in 1740, on the eve of Handel's Messiah, it was considered to be Cassell’s greatest work and is certainly one of the finest country houses in Ireland. The house comprised a massive central block of hewn Wicklow granite from the Glencree quarries and twin domed towers, stretching out at either end to obelisks capped by Wingfield eagles. The central block was surmounted by a pediment on which the family arms of Richard and his second wife, Dorothy Rowley, were carved in white stone. The interior contained numerous stately apartments, including a richly decorated Hall 80 feet long and 40 feet wide, a sumptuously embellished Ball Room of equal dimensions, with galleries on each side. The new house occupied a setting that was the envy of most other 18th century mansions; the highest waterfall in Ireland and uninterrupted views of the Great Sugar Loaf and the rugged Wicklow Mountains beyond.

Richard was described by his contemporary, Lord Egmont, as “a civil, well-bred man”. [iii] The Hanoverian elite evidently agreed and on 4th February 1743 he was elevated to the peerage of Ireland as Baron Wingfield and Viscount Powerscourt. He passed away in October 1751. Lady Dorothy survived him to a ripe old age and died in 1785. They left two sons, Edward and Richard, the 2nd and 3rd Viscounts respectively, and two daughters, Frances and Isabella.[iv]

The French Lord Powerscourt

In 1751, Richard and Dorothy's 22-year-old eldest son Edward succeeded as 2nd Viscount Powerscourt. Born in 1729 he was, like his father, educated at Trinity College Dublin, where his contemporaries included Oliver Goldsmith and Edmund Burke. According to Horace Walpole, the Viscount was at the court of Louis XV when he took a bet with the Duke of Orleans in 1754 that he could ride the 42 miles between Fontainebleau and Paris on his own horses in less than two hours. He won the bet - a thousand louis d’or - but his horses died.

Snub-nosed and pug-like in visage, he was one of the more glamorous and vivacious members of Lord Charlemont’s intellectual elite. Hardy, in his 'Life Of Lord Charlemont', wrote: "He was often known as The French Lord Powerscourt – an epithet not of frivolity but merely by his long residence in France where his agreeableness, his vivacity, and courteous easy manners rendered him immensely liked. ….. He attended for some time in the Dublin House of Lords but he soon discovered that although he wished to engage in business it was of all places on earth the most impropitious to any such laudable pursuit. He was much mortified to find himself in the company of such august but imbecile inefficient personages, so he moved to the English House of Commons.” Hardy also declared him one of the few men of high rank who resided almost continuously in Ireland – as much out of fondness for the country as for duty.

As a barrister, he showed himself a staunch opponent of slavery. Along with Burke, he was much embroiled in the impeachment of Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India. From 1756 to 1761 he was Conservative MP for Stockbridge in Hampshire. He planted the main beech avenue at Powerscourt.

The Duchess of Leinster had hoped he would marry her sister Lady Louisa Lenox but, as she put it: “he is looking for a fortune”. Perhaps Louisa was too for she married the richest commoner in Ireland, Tom Connolly of Castletown. He died unmarried aged 35 in 1764.

He died unmarried on 6 May 1764 and was succeeded as 3rd Viscount by his only brother, an enlightened young man called Richard.

The 3rd Viscount & Powerscourt Townhouse

Richard, 3rd Viscount Powerscourt, was baptised on Christmas Eve 1730 and married, in 1760, to Lady Amelia Stratford, daughter of the 1st Earl of Aldborough. Like Charlemont and the 1st Earl of Milltown, he returned from his Grand Tour with a great passion for the arts. In 1771, he commissioned Robert Mack to design the Powerscourt Townhouse on Dublin’s South William Street. This beautiful three-storey house was built with granite from the Viscount’s quarry in the Wicklow Mountains. It features Rococo plasterwork by James McCullagh, Adamesque plasterwork by Michael Stapleton and wood-carvings by Ignatius McDonagh. Gateways to the left and right of the house led to the stables and kitchen respectively. After the Act of Union in 1800, the 4th Viscount sold the house to the Crown for what was described at the time as “the ridiculous sum” of £15,000. It was used by the Commission of the Stamp Duties until 1811 and then occupied by the silk merchants, Ferrier & Pollack. In 1981 it was sensitively converted into an upmarket shopping centre by developer, Robin Power.[v]

There is a curious legend associated with Powerscourt relating to a Catholic priest on the run. One summer’s evening, the hunted man rushed up the Powerscourt avenue pursued by soldiers. The 3rd Viscount was at the time enjoying the air with some friends after dinner. The priest implored the Viscount to protect him but the peer was unable, or unwilling, to comply. The poor man clung to the skirts of the ladies but was dragged away and killed on the lawn in front of the house. It is said that the grass has never since grown on the spot, despite every effort made to cultivate it. [vi]

On his death in August 1788, the 3rd Viscount’s remains were laid in state in the parlour. For two days, the public was admitted to view the ceremonial. His widow, Amelia, Lady Powerscourt, survived him by a remarkable 43 years, living with her unmarried daughter Martha Wingfield on North Great George’s Street until her death in 1831. The 3rd Viscount left three sons, Richard (the 4th Viscount) and the twins, John and Edward, and two daughters, Emilia, who married Captain Robert Deane Spread, and Martha.

The Wingfield Twins

The twins, John and Edward, were born on 2nd August 1772. Their father died shortly before their 16th birthday, leaving them both substantial estates. John inherited the family estates of Robertstown, Co. Limerick, and Wingfield Lodge, Ennistymon, Co. Clare. Edward succeeded to the Scurmore estate in Sligo, and the Ellaghbegg estate in Mayo. The twins were evidently on the closest of terms for much of their lives. In April 1797, shortly before their 25th birthday, they both took young brides. John married an English girl, Frances Bartholomew while Edward secured the 2nd Baron Rossmore’s sister, Harriet Westenra.

John Wingfield & the Earls of Aldborough

In 1801, John Wingfield, the elder twin, found himself the unexpected recipient of a vast estate upon the death of his mother's brother, Edward Stratford, 2nd Earl of Aldborough. Lord Aldborough had taken great steps to cut his younger brother John (a spendthrift who subsequently became 3rd Earl of Aldborough) out of his will. John Wingfield succeeded to a huge quantity of the Stratford estate in Co. Wicklow. Much of this was based in and around Baltinglass (including the 'new town' of Stratford-upon-Slaney) but the inheritance also included an incomplete development in an enclave off London’s Oxford Street (where Stratford House and Stratford Place were built) and various other properties and lands scattered around Dublin City and the wider province of Leinster. Indeed, had he not been restricted by law, Lord Aldborough would undoubtedly have also bequeathed to his nephew the rest of the family estate and the family seat at Belan in Co. Kildare.

In appreciation of this incredible bequest, John assumed the additional name of Stratford, and thus became John Wingfield-Stratford. He served with the Coldstream Guards at Waterloo and rose to become a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army. His father-in-law, Leonard Bartholomew, owned Addington Park near Maidstone in Kent. Leonard was related to Thomas Watton of Addington Place & Oxen Hoath and his wife Martha Roper of Eltham, a great granddaughter of Sir (Saint) Thomas Moore. The head of Sir (Saint) Thomas Moore is buried in the Roper vault in St Dunstan's Canterbury. [Thanks to Penelope Powell for Bartholomew details]

John Wingfield-Stratford’s only son – also John – would ultimately succeed to Addington Place. He married Jane, a daughter of General Sir John Guise and was father to seven sons and six daughters, including the Captain Howard Wingfield who served in the Bechuanaland Expedition of 1883, a successful military manoeuvre by which Britain effectively annexed modern day Botswana.[vii]

John and Frances Wingfield's second daughter Isabella Harriet married John Malcolm 14th of Poltalloch of Argyll, Scotland, whose art collection is in the British Museum. Their son William Rolle Malcolm married Georgina Wellesley, daughter of Major General Lord Charles Wellesley and a granddaughter of the 'Iron Duke' of Wellington, born in Dublin. They had two sons and a daughter.

After Frances’s death in the summer of 1827, John married secondly Harriette Grant of Glamorgan. Colonel the Hon. John Wingfield-Stratford died in 1850. [With thanks to Penelope Powell].

Colonel Wingfield & Corke Lodge

In August 1802, John’s twin brother, Colonel the Hon. Edward Wingfield purchased Corke Abbey (on the Dublin side of Bray) from the Rt Hon Theophilus Jones. Edward’s wife Harriet was a niece of Jones’s wife Anne. It seems Jones sold the property in a fit of anger after losing the Co. Leitrim election. Colonel Wingfield and his wife raised their only child, another Harriet, at Corke Lodge. In 1819 this young girl, a useful artist, married the 38-year-old Peninsular War veteran Sir William Verner of Churchill, Co. Armagh.[viii] The elder Harriet passed away shortly before Christmas 1858 and her husband, Colonel Wingfield, died the following summer. As he had no son, his Co. Dublin estates passed to the Verners (and merged with their substantial estates in Counties Armagh and Tyrone) while his other estates reverted to the Wingfields. Corke Lodge was purchased at the beginning of the 20th century by Sir Stanley Cochrane of the Cantrell and Cochrane drinks company. It is now home to his great-nephew, the architect Sir Alfred Cochrane.

The 4th Viscount Powerscourt & the Clanwilliams

Richard Wingfield was 26 years old when he succeeded his father as 4th Viscount in August 1788. The following June, as the French began sharpening their revolutionary knives, the young Viscount married Lady Catherine Meade. She was the eldest daughter of the 1st Earl of Clanwilliam, a splendidly decadent soul with a vast estate in the Golden Vale of Co. Tipperary. Lord Clanwilliam appears to have dissipated a fortune equivalent to several million in today’s terms on a lavish life of horse-riding, gambling, mistresses and stable-boys. Lady Catherine’s brothers included General Robert Meade, Archdeacon Philip Meade of Dromore and the 2nd Earl of Clanwilliam.[ix] Her sisters Theodosia and Melosina married Baron Howden and the 10th Earl of Meath respectively. Lady Catherine provided her husband with three consecutive sons in the first three years after their marriage but died in 1793.

Rev. Willie Wingfield, Curate of Avoca

The 4th Viscount took a second wife in 1796. Isabella (or Isa) was a daughter of the Rt Hon. William Brownlow of Lurgan, Co. Armagh, a linen magnate who became Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Isa's sisters Catherine (Kitty), Elizabeth and Frances married Matthew Forde of Seaforde, the 4th Earl of Darnley and the 2nd Viscount de Vesci respectively. Her brother Francis Brownlow was Rector of Upper Comber, Co. Derry, and married Lady Catherine Brabazon, sixth daughter of the 8th Earl of Meath. Kitty Forde was reputed to have been a great beauty, as evidenced by a miniature painting by Horace Hone at Seaforde which dates from about 1790. She died giving birth to her 21st child! I'm told three of these sisters served as the models for George Romney's painting of 'The Three Graces; but I know not which three.

They had a son, the Hon. William or “Willie” Wingfield, and two daughters, Catherine and Emily, who married clergymen but died young.[xi] Born on 21 May 1799, Willie crossed the sea to England to take a BA degree at Brasenose College, Oxford, before starting his career as Curate of Avoca in County Wicklow. Ordained in 1823, he survived a near fatal bout with fever and developed an outstanding reputation in equal parts for his firebrand pulpit sermonizing and his terrific sense of humour. Perhaps through his close friendship with Edward Lear and the Carysforts, he developed a great passion for Limericks. In 1830, Willie Wingfield married Elizabeth Kelly, daughter of the Rev. Thomas Kelly (see Tighe of Rossanagh) (1769-1855) of Kellyville and Ballintubber, Co. Laois, the evangelical hymn-writer and founder of the Kellyites, by his wife Elizabeth (née Tighe). In ‘Bowen’s Court’ (Longman’s, 1942, p. 282), Elizabeth Bowen refers to a water-colour of Elizabeth Kelly ‘painted against a pink curtain’ which showed her with ‘the bloom of a rose … Her waist is said to have been no larger than the circumference of two oranges, and the blood of kings of Ireland flowed in her veins.’[i] Bena’s father was known as the Charles Wesley of Ireland because of the number of hymns he wrote, including ‘The Head that once was crowned with Thorns’, 'We sing the praise of Him who died’ or 'Through the day thy love has spared us’.

Willie served as Rector of Abbeyleix, Co. Laois, from 1836 to 1880. He arrived in Abbeyleix shortly after the completion of the Semple Church, and later oversaw the reconstruction of the town’s Protestant church, dedicated to St. Michael & All Angels, under the direction of the architect Sir Thomas Wyatt. In 1840 he was appointed co-guardian, alongside the 3rd Earl of Roden, to the three sons of his cousin, the Rev. Ed Wingfield. Much trusted by the family, he was also appointed joint guardian to Mervyn, the 8-year-old 7th Viscount Powerscourt, following the 6th Viscount’s premature death at the age of 29. In 1844, he received £15,000 from the will of his aunt Martha (of whose will he was executor). By 1849 he was borrowing £500 from his godson at 5% interest, according to documents that have survived. This was the time of the Great Famine and it seems quite in keeping that he would have been using his own money to help the poor. He frequently toured England, preaching on behalf of the Protestant Orphans Society and Irish Society. His wife suffered poor health and they also spent periods in France, where their son Richard Thomas Wingfield was born. Elizabeth died in 1856. "Old Uncle Willie” died in March 1880 aged 80, surrounded by his family. At his funeral, Dr. Robert Daly, the evangelical Bishop of Cashel (and former Rector of Powerscourt) remembered him as “one of the brightest ornaments of the Church of Ireland for more than half a century”. He is recalled today by the Wingfield Memorial on the Ballacolla Road outside Abbeyleix which is inscribed: “In Memory of the Honourable and Reverend William Wingfield, Vicar of Abbeyleix 1836 – 1880”. The church in Abbeyleix has an 1886 window (featuring an effeminate St George) dedicated to Willie, his wife and their son Richard, while there is also a colourful marble pulpit of 1881 with an inscription to him.

Their eldest son, Captain Richard T Wingfield was caught up in the Indian Mutiny and never fully recovered from his exertions and died in 1870 aged 34. He was known for his letters home from the Indian Mutiny. On the plus side, he was actually on route to India when he met his future bride, Isabella, daughter of the Rev. Edward Guille of Jersey. Richard and Isabella’s son, Lt. Col. the Rev. William E. Wingfield, was awarded a DSO in 1917 for his gallantry at the Somme. His youngest son Captain Mervyn Wingfield, DSO, DSC (1911–2005), born in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, was the first British submarine commander to sink a Japanese submarine and published his memoirs as 'Wingfield at War'. Captain Mervyn Wingfield was father of the civil engineer Richard Wingfield of Berkshire (a specialist in in river engineering, dams, irrigation, flood protection etc.) who helped me compile the above information on our mutual ancestor, the Rev. Willie Wingfield.

Willie and Elizabeth's eldest daughter Elizabeth, known as Bena, was married in 1858 to Henry FitzGeorge Colley, the eldest son and heir of the Hon. George Francis Colley and a grandson of the 4th Viscount Harberton. His great-grandmother was a first cousin of the Duke of Wellington, a kinship greatly prided by the family during his formative years. Henry and Bena were the grandparents of my grandmother Noreen Butler (nee Colley). Bena was a pretty staunch no-nonsense type. Elizabeth Bowen wrote: ‘She saw no reason to deviate in the bringing-up of her family, from the strictness in which both she & her husband had been brought up – cards, dancing & theatre-going had been alike forbidden … For her own part, she admitted to having suffered, as a young girl, on her visits to Powerscourt where those pleasures reigned ... At Mount Temple ball and theatre-going were not permitted.’

Henry Grattan

One of the Powerscourts’ neighbours at the close of the 18th century was Henry Grattan, perhaps the greatest Irish statesman of the Georgian Age. In 1782, at the behest of Beauchamp Bagenal, the Irish Parliament voted Grattan a massive pay-cheque and gave him an old inn along the banks of the River Dargle. The inn, which Grattan knew well, was romantically located between Powerscourt’s Golden Gate and Tinnehinch Bridge. Twiss, in his Tour Through Ireland (1775) stated that the inn was erected by Lord Powerscourt and was for many years the leading hostelry in the area. Arthur Young certainly stayed there during his tour of Ireland in 1776.[xii] Grattan subsequently remodelled the inn to become Tinnehinch House, later home to his descendents, the Grattan-Bellews.

Joseph Holt & the ’98 Rebellion

The 4th Viscount understood the origins of the United Irishmen uprising of 1798 better than many of his peers. Among the principal rebels in the Powerscourt area was Joseph Holt, a tall, handsome, brawny Protestant farmer from Roundwood who became leader of a band of insurgents after yeomanry burned his house. In November 1798, Holt surrendered to Lord Powerscourt through the negotiations of Elizabeth La Touche. Holt had endeared himself to the La Touches earlier in the year when he prevented a band of rebels from burning their fairy tale castle at Luggala. His wife Hester had since become a close friend of Mrs. La Touche. His conditions were that his life be spared and he and his family transported to New South Wales. Holt was later pardoned and returned to Ireland in 1812 where he opened a pub in Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire), invested in property and died in 1826 aged 70.

The Act of Union

The 4th Viscount was a virulent opponent of the Act of Union. He believed it would ultimately sound the death-knell for the Ascendancy to which he belonged. He was also appalled by the readiness with which his contemporaries had agreed to an Act that would surely pave the way for Catholic emancipation, the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland and perhaps even, God forbid, land reform. When a government emissary arrived at Powerscourt seeking to woo him over to the Union, the young Viscount threw him out of the house, saying, “You are not going to bribe me!” He died in July 1809 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Richard, who had left Harrow only a year earlier. His widow, the indomitable Isabella, Dowager Viscountess Powerscourt, survived him until 1848.

Hon. John Wingfield & Lord Byron

Less than two years after he succeeded as 5th Viscount, Richard’s younger brother, the Hon. John Wingfield, died of fever at Coimbra in Portugal. At Harrow, John was in the same class as the future Prime Minister Robert Peel, the future Marquess of Sligo and the poet Lord Byron. The latter became a particularly intimate friend and subsequently claimed to have “known him ten years, the better half of his life, and the happiest part of mine”. At the time of his death, John Wingfield was serving as an ensign with the Coldstreams in Wellington’s campaign to oust Napoleon’s army from Portugal. Byron later dedicated a sweet epitaph to him in his poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, published less than three years later.

“And thou, my friend! - since unavailing woe
Bursts from my heart, and mingles with the strain -
Had the sword laid thee with the mighty low,
Pride might forbid e'en Friendship to complain:
But thus unlaurel'd to descend in vain,
By all forgotten, save the lonely breast,

And mix unbleeding with the boasted slain,
While Glory crowns so many a meaner crest!
What hadst thou done to sink so peacefully to rest?”

In a poem from 1805, “Childish Recollections”, Byron dedicated some sixteen lines to “Alonzo!” (John), the “best and dearest of my friends”.

“Friend of my heart, and foremost of the list
Of those with whom I lived supremely blest;
Oft have we drain'd the font of ancient lore,
Though drinking deeply, thirsting still the more;
Yet, when Confinement's lingering hour was done,
Our sports, our studies, and our souls were one:
Together we impell'd the flying ball,
Together waited in our tutor's hall;
Together join'd in cricket's manly toil,
Or shar'd the produce of the river's spoil;

Or plunging from the green declining shore,
Our pliant limbs the buoyant billows bore:
In every element, unchang'd, the same,
All, all that brothers should be, but the name”.

The Expansion of Enniskerry

In February 1813 the young 5th Viscount married Frances Theodosia Jocelyn, eldest daughter of the 2nd Earl of Roden, of Tollymore Park, Co. Down. [xvii.a] The alliance between the Rodens and Powerscourts was further cemented in 1819 when the Viscount’s youngest brother, Edward, married Lord Roden’s niece, Joan Jocelyn. The Jocelyns were also closely connected to the Powerscourt’s neighbours, the Probys (Earls of Carysfort), Howards (Earls of Wicklow), Hutchinsons and Synges. In 1818, perhaps eager to prosper from the growing number of upmarket visitors to the surrounding countryside, the 5th Viscount substantially rebuilt the village of Enniskerry. According to Lawson’s Gazetteer of Ireland, this involved a series of “rustic cottages” erected from designs of “Mr. Morrison”. It is assumed this was Richard Morrison, the eminent architect who, in a letter to the Chief Secretary from 1821, the Viscount recommended as successor to Francis Johnston at the Board of Works.

The Visit of King George IV

The young Lady Powerscourt suddenly took ill and died on board a packet boat at Madeira in 1820. She left her husband with a small son, Richard, 6th Viscount, and daughter, Catherine. The following year, the Viscount received an extremely important visitation in the not inconspicuous shape of the new king, George IV. The drawing rooms on the first floor were rapidly redecorated with “much beauty of arrangement and elegance of decoration” to honour the visit. On 3rd August, just nine days before the monarch arrived in Ireland, the 5th Viscount was appointed to succeed the late Marquess of Londonderry as a Representative Peer of Ireland.[xiii] Some weeks earlier, the King had mentioned his desire to view the famous waterfall at Powerscourt. The Viscount had swiftly dammed the river and set up a viewing platform. The plan was to break the dam in the King’s presence and so produce an even more electrifying cascade than normal. However, the King was delayed in Dublin, most probably by drink, and the ceremony was obliged to take place without him. When the dam broke the viewing platform was swept away. Had the King been standing upon it, he would almost certainly have been killed.

Click her for more on George IV's visit to Ireland.

Scandal in the Family

In July 1822, the extended family was embroiled in tremendous scandal when Percy Jocelyn, Bishop of Clogher, was caught in what the Prime Minister’s private secretary later described as “a state of licentiousness only made human by the descriptions in the most abandoned of the French school” with a guardsman at the White Hart public house in Westminster. The Bishop was uncle to both the late Lady Powerscourt and Louisa Wingfield. The timing could not have been worse for the government. The Foreign Secretary, the brilliant but exhausted Viscount Castlereagh, was already under investigation for a similar offence, although he gamely claimed he had thought the soldier he picked up was a woman. As the public clamour against both the Bishop and the politician rose to a crescendo, Castlereagh stunned all by committing suicide on 12th August. Percy Jocelyn was stripped of his bishopric and declared an outlaw. He moved to Scotland and there lived with his sister, masquerading as a butler under the assumed name of Thomas Wilson. He died on 20th December 1843.[xiv]

Lady Powerscourt & the Plymouth Brethren

Like his two brothers, the 5th Viscount was fated to die young, passing away in August 1823 at the age of 33. His death must have been imminent for some time as, in June 1823, John David had written to Anne La Touche of the “sad news” about Lord Powerscourt. “He is, I hear, quite deranged”. The previous year the 5th Viscount had taken a second wife, another Theodosia, this time the young daughter of his neighbour, Colonel Hugh Howard of Bushy Park. She was a niece of the 3rd Earl of Wicklow and her sisters Isabella and Frances were married to the 3rd Earl of Carysfort and William Hayes Parnell respectively. Widowed at such a young age, Lady Powerscourt became surrogate mother to her eight Proby nephews and nieces at Glenart Castle after their mother, Isabella, died giving birth to the 5th Earl of Carysfort. She was also very close to her step-daughter, Catherine Wingfield (later wife to the Hon. Rev. Andrew Stuart) and her niece Catherine Parnell (later Mrs. George V. Wigram). She was prominent in evangelical circles within the Church of Ireland and later, with her cousin John Vesey Parnell (later 2nd Baron Congleton) and Francis Hutchison, became a committed member of the Plymouth Brethren. She died aged 46, ten months after her sister Isabella, in December 1836.

The Rev Ed Wingfield & the Tighe Connection

The 5th Viscount’s brother, the Rev. (Edward) “Ed” Wingfield, was born in 1792 and educated at Harrow. He went on his Grand Tour of Europe during the final months of the Napoleonic Wars, visiting Paris in July 1815 for the Grand Review of Wellington’s victorious troops after Waterloo. Ed travelled extensively to Milan, Auxerre, Dijon and Geneva and, pre-empting modern hooliganism, carved his name into Strasbourg Cathedral. In 1816, he returned to Ireland and took up position as Vicar of Bagenalstown in Co. Carlow. That autumn, he was out riding at Powerscourt with his brother, Lord Powerscourt, and the young Duke of Dorset when the latter fell from his horse and was killed. In April 1819, he married Joan Jocelyn, the third of five daughters born to the Hon. George Jocelyn. They settled at Myshall in Co. Carlow where he was now Vicar and had three sons, Dick, George and Ned. From 1821, he was also Vicar of St. James, Phoenix Park. This was a position of some influence; the Lord Lieutenant was a regular attendee for the sermons at St. James. Joan was devoted to her husband, forever fretting about the possibility of him catching a chill, especially after the premature death of Lord Powerscourt in 1823. In 1825, the Wingfields went to stay with Ed’s uncle, Colonel Edward Wingfield, at Ballymena House which the Reverend described as “a mere cabin”. That September, the Reverend took a turn and died at Powerscourt at the age of 32. The cause of death was rather mysteriously described as “a Surfeit of Fruit”.

The Reverend Ed’s widow, Joan Wingfield, then removed to Thames Ditton in Surrey with their four children and subsequently married the wealthy brewer, Robert “Plum Pudding” Tighe (see Tighe of Rossanagh). In October 1841, nearly sixteen years after his death, Ed’s stepmother, Isa Wingfield, wrote to Prime Minister Peel seeking a clerkmanship for Ed’s son and heir, Dick Wingfield, on the grounds that the family’s income had been lost with Ed’s premature demise. Peel replied four days later, claiming he had been inundated with “ten-fold [such] applications in [the] first six weeks in power”.

Of Emperors and Jackaroos

Dick Wingfield, an enthusiastic rider to hounds, later married Fanny Castle, daughter of the Governor of Bombay, and served as British Attaché to Rome and Florence. In 1870, they settled at Fairy Hill where they raised six sons and six daughters. Their son and heir, Eddy Wingfield, was a naval officer and lived a fascinating life. He has written an intriguing account of the shelling of the Japanese port of Shimonoseki in 1864 by an alliance of American, British, French, and Dutch ships. The following year, Eddy – then a “Middie” - went on a secretive mission to see the elderly Emperor Komei pass along the Tokkaido, Japan’s main road. As the Emperor passed, it was absolutely forbidden for anyone to so much as look at the road. However, as Eddy watched, presumably in disguise, a peasant suddenly ran into the road in front of the Emperor. The Emperor’s captain ordered a soldier to cut the peasant down immediately. When the soldier hesitated, the captain stepped forward, killed the soldier and then slew the impudent peasant. In April 1877, Lieutenant Eddy Wingfield, captain of the Antelope, escorted the future Edward VII and his bride, Princess Alexandra, on a Mediterranean cruise. The adventure was cut short when Russia declared war on Turkey that same month. From 1898 to 1912, Dick’s second son, Bobby Wingfield, ran the Shelton Abbey estate of his sister, the Countess of Wicklow and his nephew, the 7th Earl of Wicklow. Bobby was the progenitor of the Rhodesia line. Dick’s third son, George, has left a wonderful account of his stint as a jackaroo in the Australian outback between 1873 and 1884.[xv] In 1880, Dick’s second daughter Fanny married the 6th Earl of Wicklow.[xvi] Six years later, his fifth daughter Isabella married Wicklow’s Deputy Lieutenant, Major Cornwallis Gun-Cunninghame.

An English Branch

Dick’s next brother George, a celebrated wit, married Sophia, a sister of the Yorkshire landowner, Sir Philip Pauncefort-Duncombe. Their son, Sir Anthony Wingfield of Ampthill House, Co. Bedford, was knighted in 1937.[xvii] Dick’s youngest brother, Ned, obtained a commission as a Captain with the 2nd Life Guards through the 6th Viscount Powerscourt. He married Frances, the beautiful co-heir of the 4th Baron Dynevor, mother to his nine children. In 1869, Ned’s son and heir, Edward Rhys Wingfield, inherited 19,000 acres from the combined Trevor, Talbot-Rice and de Cardonnel estates in England. These were centred upon Barrington Park near Burford.[xviii] In 1876, Edward became Treasurer and co-founder of the prestigious Bach Choir.[xix] Ned’s grandsons included the diplomat Sir Charles Wingfield, KCMG, the charismatic Captain Maurice “Tolly” Rhys Wingfield and Captain Cecil “Jack” Wingfield.[xx]

The 6th Viscount Powerscourt

Richard Wingfield, 6th Viscount Powerscourt, was born on 18 January 1815. He became Viscount upon his father’s death in 1823 and was also Baron Wingfield in the English Peerage. During the early 1830s he embarked on a tour of the USA with his cousin John Henry Parnell, father of Charles Stewart Parnell. At the age of 21, the dashing young viscount was married at St George's, Hanover Square, London, to another cousin, Lady Elizabeth Jocelyn. The church was not far from his town houses at Ely Place, London, and 97 Harley Street. She was a famous society beauty, the eldest daughter of Robert Jocelyn, 3rd Earl of Roden.

An Appointment with Mr. Roebuck

In the election of February 1839, the 6th Viscount stood for the Conservatives against Mr. J.A. Roebuck in the Bath constituency. The contest became particularly heated when Roebuck publicly accused the Viscount of “grave public immorality” and refused to issue an apology. Like a real-time soap opera, The Times printed the subsequent correspondence between Roebuck and the Viscount’s spokesman, Henry Fitzroy. Tempers inevitably spilled out into a small field at Coombe Wood outside Putney Hill where, one evening, Lord Powerscourt and Fitzroy “met by appointment” with Roebuck and Edward Trelawney. According to an account later submitted to The Times by Fitzroy and Trelawney, a last ditch attempt was made to “avert the necessity of proceeding to extremities” but came to nothing. “The ground was measured and the principals placed at 12 paces. On Mr. Roebuck receiving his adversary’s fire, he discharged his pistol in the air and, advancing to Lord Powerscourt, said, “Now, my Lord, I am ready to make any apology your Lordship may suggest, for certainly in my speech at Bath I did not mean to imply any thing personally offensive”. All parties being entirely satisfied by this frank procedure of Mr. Roebuck, returned to town”. Whatever the truth behind this extraordinary encounter, the Viscount went on to win the election.

Of Antelopes and Wheelbarrows

On 17th August 1840, the Viscount captained the Antelope in the Queen’s Cup at Cowes. The 90-ton yacht was running in third place when the leader, Reindeer, capsized. The yacht in second place stole the lead but left the Reindeer’s crew floundering in heavy seas. Viscount Powerscourt genially halted the Antelope and rescued the men. When he sailed over the line, he was awarded the Cup – the second yacht presumably having committed a foul! Later that year he purchased the beautiful estate of Luggala in the Wicklow Mountains from the financially challenged La Touche family. He subsequently travelled extensively in Italy and Germany and was a great collector of objets d'art such as a splendid mid-18th century Bolognese oil on slate of Joshua crossing the Jordan. Emperor Leopold of Austria had originally presented this picture to Pope Gregory XIV. In 1842, he commissioned the eccentric Scots designer Daniel Robertson to transform the castle’s grass terraces into a grand Italianate garden, complete with balustrades, statues, flights of steps and inlaid paving. The new garden is said to have been modelled on the Villa Butera in Sicily. The future 7th Viscount famously recalled how Robertson “was much given to drink [but] suffered from gout and used to be wheeled out on the terrace in a wheelbarrow, with a bottle of sherry”. That said, it should be noted that the Viscount was only seven years old when Robertson was on the scene so his memories may be a little purple. Robertson went on to design the house and gardens at Lisnavagh in Co. Carlow for Captain William McClintock Bunbury and died in 1849.

Foxhunting in the Campagna Romana

It was while he was living in Rome in 1843 that the 6th Viscount apparently turned to his friend, Lord Chesterfield and wondered aloud, “Should we not set up a pack of hounds here?” Chesterfield is said to have promptly rung a bell, sent for his groom and commanded him to “Go to England and bring a pack of hounds here!” Perhaps a more likely source of origin for the Chesterfield Hunt, still extant in Italy today, took place when a fox simply chanced to cross Lord Chesterfield’s path while he was riding along the Appian Way. Chesterfield, who had come to Italy to help cure his wife’s tuberculosis, greatly missed hunting in Leicestershire. On sighting the fox, he did indeed send home for hounds, hunters, huntsman and whipper-in, and within a few months he and Powerscourt and their Italian friends were a-hunting the Campagna Romana.

A Turn for the Worse

The 6th Viscount had completed the bulk of his return journey from Italy, via Stuttgart, when he took ill at the Crown Hotel, Rochester, Kent. The 29-year-old peer died in the hotel on 11th August 1844. He was buried at Powerscourt. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and three sons, Mervyn (the 7th Viscount), Maurice and Lewis.

The 4th Marquess of Londonderry

Two years later, his widow married her lover, the charismatic Frederick Stewart, subsequently 4th Marquess of Londonderry. Frederick was the eldest son of the Hon. Charles Stewart Vane, former Undersecretary of State for War, by his first wife Lady Catherine Bligh, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Darnley.[xxi] He lost his mother at the age of seven, while his father was serving in the army overseas, and was raised by his uncle and aunt, Viscount and Viscountess Castlereagh. Lord Castlereagh, the mastermind of the 1800 Act of Union, succeeded as Marquess of Londonderry in 1821. He committed suicide the following year. Frederick’s father then succeeded as 3rd Marquess. Frederick’s contemporaries knew him as 'Young Rapid', a charming companion, very popular with all classes of society and full of boyish jokes and good humour. He became a close friend of Disraeli after they met at one of Lady Blessington’s social and literary soirées at her house in Seamore Place, Mayfair. He was a passionate salmon fisher and deer-stalker in an age when such sports were in their infancy. In June 1838 he was shot through the wrist in a duel at Wormwood Scrubs by Monsieur Gérard de Melcy, husband of a famous opera singer, Giulia Grisi, to whom Frederick had inadvertently declared his love. A former Lord of the Admiralty and Privy Councillor, he was the sitting MP and Lord Lieutenant for Co. Down when he and Lady Powerscourt were married at the British Embassy in Paris on 2nd May 1846. In 1854 he succeeded his father as 4th Marquess of Londonderry. One year later, his wife, now Marchioness of Londonderry, increasingly influenced by Cardinals Wiseman, Manning and Newman, stunned all and converted to Roman Catholicism. Perhaps this contributed to the Marquess’s growing mental discord from 1862 which resulted in his being certified as of unsound mind and removed to White Rock Villa in Hastings. After a long seclusion, he died childless aged sixty-seven in 1872 and was laid to rest in Newtonards. His widow was buried alongside him in September 1884. Frederick was succeeded as 5th Marquess by his half-brother, the 2nd Earl Vane.

Of Tightropes & Heiresses

The 6th Viscount’s second son, the Hon. Maurice Richard Wingfield, was said to have been a very handsome man. Born in 1839, he served first with the Life Guards and then as a Midshipman in the Royal Navy in the Baltic and the Crimea. In 1861, he was among those fortunate enough to see the brilliant tightrope walker, Chevalier Blondin, perform at the Crystal Palace Exhibition. In July 1865 he found a bride in the shape of Mary Agnes, daughter and co-heiress of James Block of Charlton in Wiltshire, and sister of Lady Sherborne. That same year he also secured a commission as a lieutenant in the Life Guards. However, he died aged 27 on Valentine’s Day 1866, less than eight months after his wedding.

Lewis Strange Wingfield

The 6th Viscount’s youngest son, Lewis Strange Wingfield, was born on 25 February 1842 and educated at Eton and in Bonn. Family legend holds that he was in fact the son of his future stepfather, the 4th Marquess of Londonderry. In June 1868, Lewis married Lord Castletown’s daughter, Cecilia Fitzpatrick. She features in a story called “The Secret of Glamis” in Lord Halifax’s “Ghost Book” of 1936. The story runs that in 1862 Cecilia was sleeping in the Blue Room at Glamis Castle in Scotland when she felt a hand brushing across her cheek. She opened her eyes to find the face of a man with a beard hovering over her. Terrified she screamed and closed her eyes. When she opened them again the ghastly face had disappeared. Such occurrences are commonplace in old castles but it is worth noting that this was the same room from which the late Queen Mother was obliged to leave when she found her sleep repeatedly disturbed by inexplicable thumps, rattling and footsteps. Besides which, Lord Halfiax’s point was that when Cecilia told her parents of her great alarm, Lady Castletown told her to pipe down because it was rude to mention such things in front of one’s hosts.

Despite suffering from delicate health all his life, Lewis went to France in 1870 as a correspondent for the Franco-Prussian War. Ten years later, he was operating as a surgeon in Sudan, tending to the wounded after the battle of Tel El-Kebir. Strange by name and strange by nature, he further distinguished himself as a soldier, traveller, novelist, costume expert, connoisseur, actor, critic and painter of genre and historical subjects. He exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1870 and 1875. One of his more unusual hobbies was the study of torture. His cousin Maurice de Vesci Wingfield recalled a dinner party where Lewis had entertained the guests by taking on the role of the Lord High Executioner of Japan, slashing the air with a huge sword. The table itself was decorated with a long rope of semi-silk running around it from which dangled pieces of paper with names and dates written on them. When asked the meaning of it all, Lewis explained that this was the same rope the public hangman had used at Marwood for two years and that the names were of those he had hanged with the length of the drop in each case. As his presumably cautious guests sat down to eat, he muttered, “Ah, yes, they’re giving it to them now”. Maurice Wingfield leaned over and asked gingerly who had been hanged that day. Lewis replied cheerfully that he was merely referring to his daughters who were being awarded prizes at school. He died aged 49 at 14 Montague Place, London, on 12 November 1891.

The 7th Viscount & W.E. Gladstone

Mervyn Edward Wingfield was born at Powerscourt on 14th October 1836 and succeeded as 7th Viscount Powerscourt in 1844. When he was 10-years-old, his widowed mother married Viscount Castlereagh; she subsequently became Marchioness of Londonderry. Young Mervyn was dispatched for an education at Eton. On his coming of age in 1857, he laid the foundation stone for a new Protestant church, St. Patrick’s, in Enniskerry. Two years later he hosted a prestigious visitation to Powerscourt by Victor Emmanuel II, King of Sardinia who would go on to become King of Italy. Mervyn briefly held a commission in the 1st Life Guards alongside his brother Maurice but retired from the service in 1862. On April 26th 1864, he was married in St. George’s, Hanover Square, to Lady Julia Coke, eldest daughter of the 2nd Earl of Leicester. She gave him two boys, Mervyn (8th Viscount) and Maurice, and three daughters, Olive, Clare and Lilah. On St. Stephen’s Day 1865, he was elected to succeed the late Viscount Gort as a Representative Peer of Ireland, holding that privilege for nearly forty years. In 1872 he met Prince Napoleon and from him purchased a pair of 17th century bronze figures, formerly in the Palais Royale in Paris, which now came to adorn Robertson’s terraces. A Liberal in politics, he was initially a tremendous supporter of Gladstone but, like most Irish peers, turned cold when Gladstone expounded his Irish policy. When the Liberal party split over Home Rule, he allied himself with the Unionists. Land reform clearly did not appeal to a man who, in 1883, could claim ownership of 53,258 acres of Irish soil (40,986 acres in Co Wicklow, 11,641 acres in Co Wexford and 631 acres in Co Dublin). His other possessions included the old O’Neill stronghold of Benburb Castle which he sold, in 1887, to Belfast distiller, James Bruce.

‘Viscount Powerscourt has succeeded in breeding a cross between the sambur and red deer, has imported two Japanese deer, and possesses two Wapiti stags and two hinds in fine condition. That is very creditable to Lord Powerscourt, who in these experiments is doing his best to justify the existence of private parks; but a pound of sambur will never be cheap, nor leg of wapiti in common demand in the market.’ (Dublin Evening Mail, 13 May 1862)

'Lord Powerscourt ... has made great progress during the past year in his interesting experiments with various breeds of deer, comprising the Sambur deer, Japanese deer, and Roe deer from Germany—all heavy in calf; not to mention the Sardinian Mouffleu or Wild Sheep, which produced a ram lamb in 1862, but the female is again in lamb. The Wapiti Deer is not in calf, and not thriving to his lordship's satisfaction. The animals which he has tried and which he considers to have failed, (as he wishes for none but animals that will establish and take care of themselves), are the Eland, the Nylghaie, the Axis deer, and some others. The climate of Ireland appears to be too damp for the Antelope tribe.' (Dorset County Chronicle, 18 June 1863)

The 7th Viscount took a passionate interest in the arts, building up a considerable collection at Powerscourt. In 1872, for instance, he acquired a pair of bronze figures of Aeolus from Prince Jerome Napoleon. The figures had originally been made for the Duke of Litta’s palace in Rome but were seized and taken to Paris during the Napoleonic Wars. He also amassed an excellent collection of furniture while on a Grand Tour of Europe, including an ormolu-mounted rosewood bureau in the Rococo Revival style that sold for a considerable fortune in the 1970s. A keen genealogist, archaeologist and deer-stalker, the Viscount published two books of interest to historians, "Wingfield Memorials" (1894) and “A History of Powerscourt” (1903). He was elected president of the Royal Dublin Society and was also a member of the Royal Irish Academy of Science. He was made a Knight of the Order of St. Patrick in 1871. He was later appointed to the Privy Council of Ireland, acting as one of the Lord Justices of Ireland in 1902. He died at his London residence, 51 Portland Place, on Sunday June 5th, 1904. His widow, the Dowager Lady Powerscourt, survived him until August 1931 when she died at her residence, 97 Harley Street in London.

The 8th Viscount & the Irish Free State

Mervyn Richard Wingfield, 8th Viscount Powerscourt, was born on 16th July 1880. After training at the Hanover Military School, he was commissioned as a Captain in the newly formed Irish Guards in 1901. In June 1903, a year before his father’s death, he married Sybil Pleydell-Bouverie at St. George’s in Hanover Square, London. Sybil was born at Hans Place in London in 1878. Her father, Major Walter Pleydell-Bouverie, was a grandson of the Earl of Radnor and lived in the splendid Manor House at Market Lavington, Wiltshire. The Major died in 1893 when Sybil was just 15.[xxii] Sybil quickly gave the 8th Viscount a daughter, Doreen (“Dar”), followed by a son and heir, Mervyn, in 1905, and a “spare heir”, the Hon. Bryan, in 1908. From 1906 to 1907 the 8th Viscount, an enthusiastic dancer, was Comptroller of the Household to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the divisive but well-meaning Lord Aberdeen. It was a job he detested, but nonetheless an interesting time for such a position as society hummed over the theft of the Irish Crown Jewels. In 1910 he was appointed Edward VII’s Lieutenant for County Wicklow. He was also a Justice of the Peace for Co. Dublin and, in 1916, he was elected a knight of the Most Illustrious Order of St. Patrick. A Protestant by birth and a Liberal Unionist by temperament, the 8th Viscount was among those few peers elected by W.T. Cosgrave to serve as a Senator of Southern Ireland in 1921. He was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Boy Scouts Association of the Irish Free State. He was subsequently Chairman of the Hospitals’ Committee which organized the Irish Sweepstake. Lady Powerscourt was created a Dame of Grace of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and was Chief of the Girl Guides Association of Ireland. The Viscount’s younger son, Bryan, died while in his last year at Fettes College, Edinburgh, in 1925. Lady Powerscourt passed away in December 1946. The 8th Viscount died at the age of 66 some three months later at home in Co. Wicklow.

In 1937 the Viscount sold Luggala to Ernest Guinness who gifted it to his youngest daughter Oonagh on her marriage to the 4th Lord Oranmore and Browne. The Brownes youngest son, the Hon. Tara Browne, was an iconic member of the London counter-culture during the 1960s. He was killed in a car crash in South Kensington 1966. His friend John Lennon referred to him in the opening verse of “A Day in the Life” concluding that “nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords”. Tara’s enigmatic eldest brother, the Hon. Garech Brown founded Claddagh Records in 1959 and is the present owner of Luggala.

General Maurice Wingfield

The 8th Viscount’s brother, Maurice Wingfield, was born in 1883 and educated at Charterhouse and Sandhurst. He was gazetted into the Rifle Brigade in 1902, served as a staff officer during the Great War and finished with the rank of Major General. He was active at the Front on several occasions, being mentioned in despatches seven times, winning a DSO in 1916 and awarded a CMG in 1918. From 1928 he stood as one of the King’s Hon. Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms, a post he retained until his demise. A gentle, kindly man, Maurice’s great skill in people management became apparent during his appointments as an instructor at the Staff College in Camberley (1919 to 1922) and as Director of Staff Duties at the War Office (1922 to 1926). He retired from the army in 1926 and went into insurance. He was Chairman of the book-binding firm, A. W. Bain & Sons.[xxiii] He also served as President of the Corporation of Insurance Brokers from 1952 to 1955. When war broke out in 1939, Maurice was recalled for duty and appointed Director of Quartering for the War Office. His two-year tenure in this role proved utterly thankless, particularly after the British Expeditionary Force’s catastrophic retreat from France. Foreigners evidently valued him highly. Belgium and Italy honoured him as an Officer of their respective Crowns. He was elected to the Legion of Honour and his gong collection included the Croix de Guerre and the Order of the Rising Sun of Japan (3rd Class). His wife Sybil was the only daughter of Frederick Dawson Leyland of The Vine, Basingstoke, Hampshire. An enthusiastic Conservative, he was much involved with reboosting the party’s image in the East Midlands after Churchill’s shock defeat in the 1945 election. Major-General Wingfield died suddenly in April 1956 aged 72 at Tunbridge Wells. A devoted Royalist, his last public activity before his death was to stand as Bodyguard at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth.

Brigadier Tony Wingfield & the Stanleys of Coolamber Manor

General Maurice Wingfield and his wife, Sybil, had a son, Anthony “Tony” (Desmond Rex) Wingfield, and daughter, Jocelyn Sybil Julia. Tony was educated at Eton and Sandhurst, rising to the rank of Brigadier. During World War Two, he commanded the 10th Hussars, won a DSO and MC and was wounded. He lived between Brownstown Park, Navan, Co. Meath, and a cottage in Windsor. In 1957 he was appointed assistant Racing and Stud Manager to Queen Elizabeth. His own medals included the Order of Leopold of Belgium and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. In 1935, he married Juliet, only daughter of William Burroughs Stanley, DL, JP, of Coolamber Manor, Co. Westmeath. Their daughter, Deirdre, married Basil Pegg and has a son, Jonathan, and daughter, Camilla. Tony died in 1995. In June 1940, Tony’s sister Jocelyn (“Jossie”) was debutante of the year and a great friend of David Niven. When she visited Niven in Hollywood during the making of “Wuthering Heights”, Merle Oberon became so enraged with jealousy that she scratched Niven’s face. Jossie’s first husband was Colonel Clifford W.P. Hordern of Alverstoke in Hampshire. Their only son, Peter, sadly died before his 12th birthday. Jossie then married Ralph Cobbold.

The Wingfield Sisters

The 8th Viscount’s eldest sister, Olive, was born in 1884. At the age of 24, she married Major William Van de Weyer. He was a grandson of a popular Victorian society couple, Sylvain Van de Weyer, sometime Belgian Ambassador, and his Bostonian wife, Elizabeth Bates. William was ADC to Lord Cadogan during his time as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

The second sister, Clare Meriel, was married in 1911 to an Irish Guards officer by name of Arthur Chichester, later 4th Baron Templemore. He won a DSO and OBE in the Great War and became Private Secretary to the Undersecretary of State for War in 1927. Arthur was Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard for eleven years and Chief Whip of the Conservative Party from 1940 to 1945. The Templemores lived at Aske Fields in Bray. Their eldest son Arthur Patrick was killed in North Africa in 1942. As such, when Arthur died in 1953, he was succeeded as 5th Baron Templemore by his second son Dermot who married a daughter of the Earl of Dartmouth. Dermot later became 7th Marquess of Donegall. The Dowager Lady Templemore survived until 1969.

The youngest sister, Lilah Julia, married Sir Clive Morrison-Bell, a West Country gentleman with an enlightened penchant for model-making. Sir Clive was elected Conservative MP for Honiton in 1910, a seat he retained for the next 21 years, despite spending most of World War One incarcerated in a German prison. One of his more memorable ideas in the post-war era was a 1948 proposal for a map of England on a scale of six miles to the inch for exhibition in a public park. Sir Clive and his wife had two daughters, Mrs. Shelagh Moore and Mrs. Patricia Gwynne.

The 9th Viscount & the Zionists

The Hon. (Mervyn Patrick) “Pat” Wingfield, 9th Viscount Powerscourt, was born on August 22nd 1905 and educated at Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the 8th Hussars before spending some years on a plantation in the Sudan. In 1932, after a year at Powerscourt, he became a Constable in the British Section of the Palestine Police in Jerusalem.[xxiv] Palestine was still reeling from the riots of 1929, which left nearly 250 Arabs and Jews dead. The violence flared when Jews sought to claim the Western Wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque, a sacred Islamic shrine, prompting fears of a Zionist plot to convert British-administered Palestine into a Jewish state. During his first months in Jerusalem, Pat married Sheila Beddington, the 26-year-old daughter of Lt Col Claude Beddington. [xxv] She was regarded as an excellent shot (as was her husband) and a brilliant rider to hounds, being a devoted member of the Quorn Hunt. They had two sons and a daughter. During the Second World War, Pat served as a Major with the Royal Irish Fusiliers. In 1940 he was seconded to assist the Libyan Arab Force (founded in April by the exiled Amir Idris) in their fight, alongside the British forces, against the Axis forces in North Africa. Unfortunately Pat was captured by the Italians in 1942, and became a prisoner of war. He managed to escape and was on the run for seven weeks with a broken ankle but was recaptured.

Sheila Wingfield

Writing under the name “Sheila Wingfield”, Lady Powerscourt established her name as a poet with such volumes as “A Kite’s Dinner”, “Beat Drum, Beat Heart” and “The Leaves Darken”. She also wrote a well-received prose memoir called of “Real People”, published in 1952. It may be that poetry was in the blood; Sheila’s great-uncle, Alfred Austin (1835 – 1913), was appointed Poet Laureate by Lord Salisbury’s cabinet. On the other hand, Sheila’s mother confessed “no one could fathom why Alfred was made Poet Laureate, since his only claim to fame was his exquisite prose. I therefore asked a niece of Lord Salisbury point blank, 'Why on earth did your uncle give the Laureateship to my Uncle Alfred?' She answered, 'Because it was absolutely the only honour Mr. Austin would accept from the Government for his long years of service to the Conservative cause’”.

Sheila’s father, Claude Beddington, was a passionate sailor and built a 76-foot topsail ketch at Brixham, England, in 1935. The boat was christened Cachelot and enjoyed two cruises before the war, recounted in Colonel Beddington's book, “We Sailed from Brixham”. The Royal Navy commissioned the boat for patrol duty during the war. On August 28th 1940, a German Stuka surprised the Cachelot while it was on patrol in the English Channel. Colonel Beddington, its 72-year-old skipper, was caught by a strafe of machine gun fire and killed. Many years later, Cachelot was purchased by Captain Jack Carstarphen and renamed Maverick. The new skipper claimed that, when the ship was in danger, the Colonel’s ghost would tap him on the shoulder to warn him.

Dar Wingfield & Fitzherbert Wright

The 9th Viscount’s only sister, Dar Wingfield, married a lieutenant in the 15th/ 19th Hussars by name of Fitzherbert Wright (1905 - 1975).[xxvi] They settled at Bridgewater House, Belton, Grantham, Lincolnshire. They had a son, Bryan, and three daughters. Bryan was sometime Secretary of the Dorchester Club. The eldest daughter Brigid married Julian Salmond, son of Sir John Salmond, Marshal of the RAF. The second daughter Davina was married twice – firstly to Sir Richard Boughey and then, in 1979, to the 4th Baron Loch, MC, of Shillingstone, Blandford.

Susan Wright & Major Ronald Ferguson

Arguably the most famous member of the Powerscourt dynasty in recent years was the Wrights’ youngest daughter, Susan. She was born in June 1937 and grew up between Lincolnshire and her grandfather’s castle at Powerscourt. At the age of 17 she attended a debutantes’ ball and met a young cavalry officer by name of Ronald Ferguson. He was immediately impressed by her vivaciousness, equestrian spirit and “wild Irish” touch. Moreover, as he later explained, “she enjoyed going to polo matches – an essential pre-requisite for a Ferguson girlfriend in those days!” Her parents, rightly deeming her too young to marry, sent her to France for a year. But romance persisted and in January 1956 Susan married Ronald Ferguson at St. Margaret’s, Westminster; six hundred lucky guests rolled up for the after-party at Claridge’s. Over the course of the 1960s, Susie and Ronald moved from Knightsbridge Barracks to Lowood House at Ascot (right by the Smith’s Lawn and Windsor Castle polo fields) to the Ferguson family home of Dummer Down near Basingstoke. With them came their two small daughters, their dogs and numerous horses. Major Ferguson became friendly with Prince Philip and, in 1971, was appointed deputy chairman of the Guards Polo Club. His wife and daughters, Jane and Sarah, duly accompanied him on polo tours of Argentina, South Africa, California and Chicago. In England, there were shooting parties at Sandringham, dances at Windsor Castle and dinner parties at Lowood. In 1969, Susie lost a child during a particularly agonizing delivery. Caught between post-natal depression and Major Ferguson’s infidelity, Susie found comfort in the arms of dashing Argentinean polo-player and former rugby star Hector Barrantes. He had lost his pregnant wife, Luisita, in a car crash near Buenos Aires in February 1972. “I have to leave now”, she told Major Ferguson’s mother, “otherwise the girls will have grown up and gone and I’ll be left alone with Ronald”. The Fergusons’ divorce went through in May 1974. Susie left her two daughters with Ronald, moved to Argentina and became Mrs. Hector Barrantes the following year. Ronald was subsequently appointed Prince Charles’ personal polo manager; a job that involved making sure the Prince of Wales was "in the right place at the right time, wearing the right shirt".

Susie and Hector Barrantes settled at El Puccara, a vast ranch in the pampas some 350 miles south west of Buenos Aires, and there bred 500 foals for polo. Meanwhile her eldest daughter, Jane, took up with 6ft 5in Australian polo player Alex Makim and settled on his farm deep within the Queensland bush. In 1981 the Makims had a son, Seamus, and five years later, a daughter, the model Ayesha Makem. Jane and Alex subsequently separated and Jane married German marketing executive Rainer Luedecke, father of her daughter Heidi. Jane now runs a PR company in Sydney.

The Duke & Duchess of York

However, the global spotlight soon turned upon the Barrantes family with the engagement and marriage of Susie’s younger daughter, Sarah, to the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew. On their wedding day in July 1986, Andrew and Sarah were created Duke and Duchess of York. Their wedding cake sported the Wingfield pegasi emblem on it, prompting the Prince to tease his wife, "Don't nag - that's a family habit". The ensuing media coverage of the gradual breakdown of the Yorks’ marriage was a source of considerable sadness to Susie. She came into financial disarray when Hector suddenly took ill with cancer and died in 1990. She sold more than half of El Puccara to the polo-playing Australian media magnate Kerry Packer and set up a television production company in Buenos Aires. In 1992 she recouped some of her losses with a famously stoical interview for Hello! During this time she also rekindled her friendship with her daughters. Sarah by now had two small daughters of her own – Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie – and was divorced from Prince Andrew in 1996. In August 1997, Susie accompanied Sarah to the funeral of Princess Diana. Mother and daughter holidayed together in August 1998 but, less than a month later, the effortlessly elegant and much liked Susie Barrantes was killed in a motor accident in Argentina. She was 61 years old.

Major Ferguson, a subject of great value for the tabloids, passed away from prostrate cancer in March 2003. During his last years he orchestrated a disciplined and energetic public awareness campaign for prostrate cancer, involving radio phone-ins and public addresses. By his second marriage to Susan Deptford in 1975, he left three further children, Andrew, Alice, and Elizabeth.

Lawrence Olivier & Henry V

In 1943, Powerscourt was chosen as principal location for the filming of Laurence Olivier’s directorial debut, “Henry V”. The epic reached its climax with the fifteen-minute re-enactment of the Battle of Agincourt for which the Irish Local Defence Forces (LDF) supplied the infantry and the surrounding hunts provided the cavalry. Olivier secured the financial backing of the British wartime cabinet anxious to remind battle-weary Britons of another glorious victory against a European enemy. The film, then the most expensive production in British film history, made no apologies for its propaganda bent, commencing with a dedication: “To the commandos and airborne troops of Great Britain, the spirit of whose ancestors it has been humbly attempted to recapture in some ensuing scenes". Its’ release coincided with the Allied Invasion of Europe in 1944 and the film proved enormously popular. Olivier won an Outstanding Achievement Award for his direction at the 1947 Academy Awards and was also nominated for Best Actor.

The Slazenger Connection

In March 1947 Pat succeeded his father both as Viscount Powerscourt and as Chief Commissioner of the Boy Scouts of Ireland. He was a passionate sailor and member of both the Royal Yacht Squadron and Royal Thames Yacht Club. In 1960, the late Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco hosted the Red Cross Ball at Powerscourt. Mick Delahunty, Ireland’s Glen Miller, topped the entertainment line up and tickets cost a whopping £1000 a head, over €12,000 in today’s currency. In 1961, the 9th Viscount sold Powerscourt House, complete with all its contents, to Ralph Slazenger. The following year, the family link to Powerscourt was reaffirmed when Ralph’s daughter, Wendy (Ann Pauline) Slazenger, married 26-year-old Mervyn Niall Wingfield, the 10th and present Viscount. [xxvii] The Slazengers made their fortune manufacturing wooden racquets and tennis balls in the late 19th century. In 1902 they were appointed official tennis ball supplier to Wimbledon and so began the longest unbroken sponsorship in sporting history. The company went into decline with the emergence of new fibreglass and graphite tennis rackets in the 1980s and ultimately became part of Dunlop Slazenger. In 2004, Dunlop Slazenger was sold to Sports World International for a reported £40 million. Over 52,000 Slazenger tennis balls were used in the 2005 Wimbledon Championships.

The Fire of ‘74

Pat and Sheila subsequently lived at Bellair, Ballycumber, Co. Offaly. Pat Powerscourt died in April 1973 at the age of 68 and was buried at Powerscourt. The following year, disaster struck when Powerscourt House, arguably the most famous country house in Ireland, was destroyed by fire. Fortunately nobody was killed or injured in the fire. A considerable portion of the contents was saved or survived, stored in various offices and cellars. However, the Powerscourt-Slazenger marriage did not survive; they were divorced the same year. The present Viscount married again in 1979 to Pauline, daughter of W.P. Van, but that marriage also ended in divorce in 1995. Sheila Powerscourt, died at Bellair in 1992.

The 10th Viscount lived in Thailand and passed away in 2015. He was succeeded as 11th Viscount by the present holde,r the Hon Mervyn Anthony Wingfield (b. 1963). The 11th Viscount has a sister, the Hon Julia Margaret (1965). The next in line to the viscountcy (though not the barony) is Patrick Noel Wingfield (born 1934), a great-great-grandson of the Rev. Hon. Edward Wingfield (1792-1874), the third son of the fourth Viscount.

The 10th Viscount had a brother, the Hon. Guy Wingfield, who passed away in 2017. He is survived by his sister, Lady Grania Langrishe, who was born in 1934. In April 1955, 21-year-old Grania married Sir Hercules Langrishe, 7th Bart. They have a son James and three daughters, Miranda, Georgina and Atlanta.

Of Hollywood and Treasury

Christie’s orchestrated a two-day sale of Powerscourt’s contents in September 1984. Ken Rohan of nearby Charleville House acquired much of these. One of the surviving wings was converted into a self-contained house and, from 1985 to 1987, was home to Count and Countess Nikita Cheremeteff. In 1981, the estate became the setting for John Boorman's Arthurian saga “Excalibur”. A decade later, Mike Newell used the Powerscourt Waterfall for “Into the West”. In 2002, the castle served as the backdrop for Kevin Reynolds’ lavish film adaptation of Alexander Dumas’s “The Count of Monte Cristo”.

The Slazengers kept Robertson’s majestic gardens open throughout and, in 1997, the house was reopened to the public. In 2005, the estate was developed as a major, upmarket golf resort where Treasury Holdings built Ireland’s first Ritz-Carlton on the site. The €150 million project was the biggest resort development ever undertaken in Ireland. The near-200 bedroom hotel was designed by James Toomey Architects in association with Peter Silling of Cologne and the late Jeremy Williams. In 2019 it was purchased by MHL Hotel Collection, a joint venture between John Malone, John Lally and Paul Higgins.


[i] Among the other sons were Sir Humphrey (Speaker of the House of Commons), Sir Richard (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster) and Sir Robert (a diplomatist and Deputy Governor of Calais).

[ii] Sir John’s eleventh son was Sir Richard Wingfield, Knight of the Garter, of Kimbolton Castle. Sir Richard’s grandson, Captain Edward Maria Wingfield (1550-1631), was instrumental with Richard Hakluyt and six others in getting King James I to sign the Virginia Charter of 1606. Wingfield went on to be the 1st President of the Council at Jamestown, during which time he built the great fort there. He was also one of the largest shareholders in the Virginia Company, the only backer to sail to the southern colony, and was still involved in Virginia affairs in his seventies.

[iii] The Viscounts principal agent was an Abbey Street wine merchant called Robert Wilson who died in September 1750.

[iv] In 1747, Frances married John Gore (1718 – 84), 1st Lord Annaly, Chief Justice of Ireland (1764) and Speaker of the Irish House of Lords (1767). In 1770, Isabella married Sir Charles Style, 1st Bart.

[v] Memorable Dublin Houses – A Handy Guide with Illustrated Anecdotes, Wilmot Harrison, W. Leckie & Co., Dublin (1890).

[vi] Picturesque Dublin Old and New, Frances Gerard (illustrations by Rose Barton), Hutchinson & Co, London (1898).

[vii] The Verner Wingfield Papers, A.P.W. Malcomson, PRONI (D/2538).

[viii] Sir William Verner fought with distinction at the battles of Corunna, Orthes, Toulose and Waterloo. He was later MP for Armagh. Harriet provided him with two sons and three daughters, a generation that would intermarry with such prominent Irish families as Pakenham, Clements and Nugent.

[ix] In 1793, the 2nd Earl of Clanwilliam married the beautiful but penniless Bohemian Countess Caroline Thum, and settled in Vienna. Their eldest daughter Caroline married Count Paul Szecheny, Chamberlain of the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. The younger daughter, Selina married General Count Clam-Martinitz, ADC General to the Emperor. Lord Clanwilliam’s son and heir, the 3rd Earl, was sometime Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Ambassador at Berlin from 1823 to 1828.

[xi] In 1827, Emily Wingfield, married the Rev Frederick Twistelton, later 16th Lord Saye & Seile, and died in 1837 leaving issue. In 1833, her elder sister, Catherine, married the Rev. Arthur Newcombe of Abbelyleix but she died two years later, leaving issue.

[xii] The Neighbourhood of Dublin, Weston St. John Joyce (3rd Edition, 1920).

[xiii] The chair of state in which the king dined was destroyed in the 1972 fire.

[xiv] Brewer’s Rogues, Villains & Eccentrics, William Donaldson (Cassell, 2002).

[xv] He was based near Merriwa in New South Wales and died in Cunnamulla, Queensland.

[xvi] In 1894, three years after Lord Wicklow’s death, Fanny married Marcus F Beresford. She died in 1914.

[xvii] Sir Anthony’s private zoo at Ampthill was one of the great natural attractions in Edwardian times with all manner of ladies and gentlemen (including minor and foreign royalty) posing alongside camels, bison, pigs, ostriches and llamas. Many of the animals were transferred to Whipsnade when that zoo opened, and all had long gone when following Sir Anthony's death, the house was pulled down and its parkland built upon.

[xvii.a] Max Weremchuk writes (2020): The National Library of Ireland has in its Powerscourt related collection what is described as the:
”Transcript of diary of Anne Jocelyn neé Hamilton, 1st Countess Roden, (237pp), also copy of last letter of Frances Theodosia nee Jocelyn, 5th Viscountess, (daughter of Anne Jocelyn) to Rev. R. Daly with copy of associated section of diary; 2 items”*
Regrettably this entry is incorrect on several points. Frances Theodosia was not the daughter of Anne Jocelyn, but of Frances Theodosia – mother and daughter both had the same name. The diary belonged to Frances and her sister Anne Jocelyn and not Anne Jocelyn neé Hamilton (wife of the 1st Earl of Roden) – who was the sisters’ grandmother.**
The diary actually breaks down into three sections: The first section from September 9th, 1810 to November 10th, 1812 is written by Frances Theodosia as the entry for August 10th, 1812 reads: “This is my birthday. 18! How old I am grown!”***
- which was Frances’ birthday. The second section contains Anne’s record of two trips to Europe with her sister Frances (Fanny) and her husband Lord Powerscourt and ends on May 5th, 1820. The last section begins on June 21st, 1822 and continues to September 20th, 1822. It appears that during this last period Anne was living with her brother Lord Roden and his wife Maria.****
Regrettably the time between May 6th, 1820 and September 19th 1822 is missing. These are the pages 179 to 200 of the transcript. (The holding at the National Library of Ireland exists only in transcript form and was obviously put together from different sources.)

* Collection List No. 124, Powerscourt Papers, (MSS 41,997 – 41,999; 43,000 – 43,071; MS L 112 – 117), (Accession No. 2704, 2708 & 3057) the diary described above is given under MS 18,430. Hereafter as NLI, MS 18430.

** Her diary exists in published form: The Diary of Anne, Countess Dowager of Roden, From the 6th August 1797, to 11th April, 1802, Dublin, (R. T. White), 1870. From this diary we learn that Frances and Anne’s father, the second Earl of Roden, was “for many years the particular friend of the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV,” p. 167.

*** NLI, MS 18430, p. 81. If Frances was born in 1795 she would have been 17 and not 18 in 1812. The entry at NLI, MS 18430, p. 43 for August 10th, 1811 reads “Is my birthday. I am seventeen to-day. How times flies. God bless me. Went to the Rotunda to hear the Band.” So it appears that the 1795 entries in the peerage books are incorrect and it should be 1794. The Historical Anecdotes entry on page 113 is thus also incorrect in stating that Frances was 17 when she married. She was 18. The first section of the diary which was written by her, ending in November 1812, contains mention of Powerscourt family members but no indication of a marriage. The marriage was months later in February 1813.

**** Angela Bourke (ed.), The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing Volume IV: Irish Women's Writing and Tradition, New York, (University Press), 2002, p. 546. Hereafter as Field Day.

[xviii] Return of Owners of Land, or the “Modern Domesday Book” 1873.

[xix] Choir Historian, Dr. B. Keen, 7 Russells Crescent, RH6 7DJ.

[xx] Captain Tolly Rhys Wingfield, a veteran of the Great War, was married on three occasions. His second wife Stephanie was the daughter of the Victorian venereal disease specialist, Sir Alfred Cooper (and a niece of the Duke of Fife). His third wife, Muriel, was formerly married to the fashion designer, Edward Molyneaux of Paris. Muriel was a daughter of James Dunsmuir, the coal magnate who became Premier of British Columbia. Tolly’s brother “Jack” was killed in the Great War; his only son, Major Edward Wingfield, married Lady Norah, fourth daughter of Admiral Jellicoe.

[xxi] The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of Co. Meath, Art Kavanagh (Irish Family Names, 2005).

[xxii] Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 482. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition.

[xxiii] A Binder's Tale: An Introduction to the Services of A.W. Bain. Ltd., London A.W. Bain & Co. (1968)

[xxiv] Daily Mail, September 1st 1932.

[xxv] Lady Sheila Powerscourt’s musically minded mother was Frances Ethel, elder daughter of Francis Berry Homan-Mulock, JP, of Ballycumber House, Co. Offaly. As Mrs. Claude Beddington, she published her memoirs in a book called “All That I Have Met”. One afternoon, while hosting a musical party, she asked George Bernard Shaw what he thought of the violinist. "He reminds me of Paderewski," Shaw remarked. "But Paderewski is not a violinist," replied Mrs. Beddington. "Neither," said Shaw, "is this gentleman." Upon her death, she bequeathed £500 to Oxford University. This now forms the Mrs. Claud Beddington Fund and is used annually to reward persons showing suitable resolve and distinction in the arenas of English Literature and Modern Language.

[xxvi] He was the elder son of Captain Henry FizHerbert Wright who settled at Yeldersley Hall in Derbyshire. The Wright family trace their ancestry back to John Wright of Stowmarket, Suffolk, in 1557. Another ancestor, John Wright, was imprisoned for eight years for raising a company in a regiment of horse for the Parliamentary cause in 1643. The family later moved to Nottingham and became principal proprietors of Butterley Works.

[xxvii] In 1973 Wendy’s brother Peter married Sallyann Judd.