Walled In

Rowallane, County Down was given its present name in the second half of the 19th century by a Church of Ireland clergyman, the Rev.John Robert Moore; he was inspired by Rowallan Castle in Ayrshire, whence his Muir ancestors were said to have come. In Ireland, the Moores acted as agents for the Annesley family and for a number of years the Rev Moore served in that role: his sister, in 1828 his younger sister Priscilla Cecilia married the third Earl Annesley, but following the latter’s death ten years later, her brother took over much of the responsibility for the widow and her young children. Castlewellan having not yet been built, at the time, the Annesleys were living at Donard Lodge, elsewhere in County Down. Here the Moore siblings, sister and brother, created a splendid garden running to some 80 acres, featuring a hermitage, aviary, shell house, visitors’ dining room, as well as cascades and waterfalls and decorative bridges: one suspects at least part of the inspiration for all this came from Tollymore not far away (see Do the Wright Thing « The Irish Aesthete).  Only once his nephew, the fourth earl, had come of age did the Rev Moore retire as agent and focus on his own interests. The previous year he had married, but just six years later she died. A widower and in his mid-50s, he now decided to embark on creating a home for himself, in 1858 buying 507 acres in the townland of Creevyloughgare just south of the village of Saintfield. Over the following decades, he acquired more land in the area, so that eventually his total hosling was just short of 1,000 acres. 

The land which the Rev Moore bought at Creevyloughgare contained just a modest farmhouse, so one of his first tasks was to provide himself with a more impressive dwelling. Work here started around 1860-61 and was completed in 1864. While larger than its predecessor (parts of which may have been incorporated into the structure) the new house has no grand architectural pretensions, being a long, plain building of two storeys. A single-storey porch with gothic doorcase sits at the centre of the double-gabled facade;; this dates from 1931 when the house was enlarged and remodelled. To the south lies the stable courtyard, begun in 1865 and entreed through a castellated gothic archway, beside which is a tall bell tower, dated 1867. The top of the tower serves as a belvedere, with lancet windows on three sides and an oculus on the fourth, as well as a viewing platform on the top, offering an ample prospect over the surrounding countryside. 

The area between the stableyard and the house at Rowallane is taken up by a walled garden covering just over two acres and divided into two sections. Originally the entire site would have been given over to the production of fruit and vegetables but in the opening decades of the last century these were gradually supplanted by ornamental shrubs, climbers and herbaceous perennials. When the Rev Moore died in 1888, he left the estate for ten years to a nephew, James Hugh Moore Garrett, with the stipulation that Rowallane should then pass to another nephew, Hugh Armytage-Moore on the latter’s 25th birthday in 1898. In the event, Armytage-Moore did not move there for another five years, having – like his uncle and other members of the family before him – acted as agent for the Annesley estate: his sister, another Priscilla Cecilia Moore, had married her cousin, the fifth Earl Annesley (incidentally, another sister was married to composer and artist Percy French). Whereas the Rev Moore had been primarily interested in laying out the demesne at Rowallane – blasting rock to create drives through the property, and then setting up sundry standing stones and ornamental cairns along the routes, as well as establishing many stands of trees throughout the demesne – Armytage-Moore was a plantsman who subscribed to botanical expeditions by the likes of Frank Kingdon-Ward and then benefitted from the discoveries that they made, some of the results of which can still be seen in Rowallane’s walled garden, contentedly sharing space with many indigenous Irish plants, in a model of the Robinsonian-inspired garden. Armytage-Moore died in 1954 and the following year Rowallane was acquired by the National Trust which continues to be responsible for the property. 

One comment on “Walled In

  1. Beautiful gardens, house less so.

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