A Gardener’s Legacy

This week marks the first anniversary of the death of architect and garden designer Angela Jupe at her home at Bellefield, County Offaly, where the Irish Aesthete had paid a visit just a few weeks before that unhappy event. After graduating from university, she worked for a number of architectural firms before heading up a design team at the Industrial Development Agency (IDA). But by the mid-1980s she had established her own practice and begun to follow her personal passion for gardening. She created two businesses, the Traditional Gardening Company which specialised in garden design and construction, and the Garden Furnishing Company, a retail outlet. 

As the name of her garden design business indicates, Angela Jupe loved old-fashioned gardens: an obituary in the Irish Times quoted her observation that ‘Some modern landscape architecture feeds only the eyes and forgets that we have noses for scent and hands for touch…Not only is there too much hard landscaping but it leads to plants that grow into a little circle requiring no pruning, care or attention.’ The first country garden she created for herself was at Fancroft Millhouse, County Tipperary which had stood empty and neglected for 12 years before she bought it in 1997 and embarked on a thorough restoration, not just of the grounds but also the house and outbuildings. Then in  2004 she took on a fresh challenge, moving to Bellefield, where the stables and walled garden had stood unused for the previous three decades.

Bellefield is a charming small gentleman’s residence dating from the first years of the 19th century. A keen believer in conservation and architectural salvage, Angela Jupe filled the house with decorative items brought from other buildings, as she also did when restoring the stableyard to the rear. And in the two-acre walled garden, which again benefitted from her attention and experience, she constructed both a charming little onion-domed folly and a large glasshouse from various pieces of salvage. The garden itself, formerly completely overgrown, displays her various passions, not least for snowdrops, of which there are more than 300 different varieties, one of the largest such collections in Ireland. In addition, there is an abundance of old French roses, rare daffodils, Chinese peonies and old fruit trees. Following her unexpected death, it emerged that she had left the Bellefield, the house and its garden, to the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland (RHSI) of which she had been a long-standing supporter and board member. The process of transfer of ownership is still ongoing, but the RHSI is currently maintaining the site and hopes to open it to the public next year.

8 comments on “A Gardener’s Legacy

  1. Elma Cusack says:

    Lovely tribute Robert.

  2. Tim Guilbride says:

    I visited Bellefield in the mid-noughties, for a rare bulb sale. The transformation that has taken place since then is astonishing, and yet the garden looks as if it has always been as we see now: the genius of a truly creative designer.

  3. Iolanda Herron says:

    So interesting Re Angela , a true saviour of gardens. Superb photographs in the article!

  4. My goodness I hadn’t realized being back in the States that she had died. A great tribute to her Robert and thank you for writing about her and her creative design. Proof that some of us are best left to do what we do best in the garden and in leaving a legacy. Wishing the RHSI the best of success in keeping the dream alive.

  5. Joanna says:

    Many thanks for such an enthralling talk on the Burning of the Great House series, several houses I know.
    I am trying to save Jamesbrook Hall, a small Georgian house in East Cork and am researching the various dates of development of the house. It was attached to the Rostellan estate, mentioned in your lecture, in 1701. I’d appreciate any help.

  6. jenjunebug says:

    So sad that she died, but great news that it is to be open to the public. What a lovely gift to the Irish public.

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