Woodstock House and Gardens
Woodstock House and Gardens are located in the picturesque Nore Valley, overlooking the historic village of Inistioge. The house was first built in 1745 for the Fownes family by renowned architect Francis Bindon, but changed hands in rapid succession until it was finally owned by the Tighe family. Woodstock House today stands in ruin after having been burnt during the Irish Civil War following its occupation by the Black and Tans. However, the landscaped gardens that surround what remains of the house hint at the former grandeur of this once elegant estate.
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Aerial view of Woodstock House and Gardens • Kilkenny
The Ladies of Llangollen
An elegant garden gateway • Kilkenny
One of the most romantic and intriguing stories surrounding Woodstock is that of Sarah Ponsonby, a relative of the Fownes Tighes who was staying at Woodstock in the 1770s. Sarah was a great beauty and said to have been receiving unwanted attention from Sir William, whose wife Betty was in ailing health. Sarah felt trapped in an unbearable situation. That was until she met Eleanor Butler, daughter of the Earl of Ormond who lived in Kilkenny Castle. Eleanor was clever and witty and was still unwed at 39. She was said to have been determined to resist any forced marriage or being sent to live in a nunnery.
Sarah and Eleanor became extremely close, and the two eloped, fleeing Ireland. Dressed as men, carrying a pistol, and accompanied by Sarah’s dog, Frisk, they rode for Waterford to catch the ship. Unfortunately the ship did not sail and they were caught. However due to their determination to never be separated, eventually the families relented and they were free to leave. They set up home in Wales, in a five room cottage on a hillside above Llangollen, which they renamed Plas Newydd.
Their home reflected their love for art and history, and the cottage became a wonderland of intricately carved and decorated timbers and furniture, with a well-stocked library and a myriad of antiques. Though the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ – as they became known – wished for a quiet retirement, they were the source of much intrigue and the fashionable world soon took them into their hearts. Their visitors included the highest ranks of society, with characters like the Duke of Wellington, Prince Paul Esterhazy, the Duke of Gloucester, Wordsworth, Shelley and Lord Byron all calling to pay their respects.
They lived a long and happy life at Llangollen spending more than 50 years together, along with their indefatigable housekeeper Mary Carryll who had accompanied them from Kilkenny. When Mary died, they erected an elaborate stone monument in their gardens, under which they later joined her.
From Riches to Ruins – the Later History of Woodstock House and Gardens
Woodstock House • Kilkenny
Woodstock House came into the possession of William Frederick Fownes Tighe and his wife Lady Louisa Lennox in 1825. Lady Louisa’s contribution to the estate was the development of the gardens that still surround the house today. Working closely with her head gardeners, Pierce Butler and Charles MacDonald, tree specimens were shipped from Asia and South America. In the late nineteenth century, Woodstock was considered to have one of the finest gardens in Ireland. Recent conservation work by Kilkenny County Council has begun to restore the gardens to their original splendour. Take the time to stroll among the Monkey Puzzle trees or wander along the Noble Fir avenue. Way marked woodland walks surround Woodstock House and lead through walled gardens to crashing waterfalls and Mount Sandford Castle, the 18th-century folly hidden amongst the trees.
After the death of Lady Louisa in 1900, the house was left unoccupied as the rest of the family lived in London. The Black and Tans based themselves in the empty house, and it was later occupied by troops of the Free State Army. They were withdrawn in July 1922 and the house was burned by the IRA. Today all that remains of Woodstock House is an empty shell surrounded by its beautiful gardens.
Woodstock House • Kilkenny
Upper left: elegant traces remain in the gardens • Lower left: the Turner Conservatory • Right: aerial view of the gardens
Top: elegant traces remain in the gardens • Middle: aerial view of the gardens • Bottom: the Turner Conservatory
Woodstock House and Gardens Visitor Information
These historic gardens are a must-visit on a trip to Kilkenny.
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