Monday, 28 March 2011
I had a stroll in the Moira Demesne in County Down yesterday, popular with villagers. There are the remains of an old wall and I wondered whether this could have once been part of the walled garden.
The Castle was demolished in 1870 but there is pictorial evidence as to its appearance and its surrounding parkland in the late 18th century. The demesne dates from the 17th century and a good portion of this (38 acres) remains as a public park.
The historical interest lies in the layout of straight avenues (replanted) with orientation onto features in the village and vestiges of canals and ponds. There are some mature and impressive trees, including two large plane trees. Other mature trees still exist in the farmland, formerly parkland, beyond the present-day public park.
In 1969 a note in the UAHS book on the locality says of Moira demesne, ‘… planting remains (after the demolition of the castle), constituting a rare and potentially valuable asset in an area otherwise poor in landscaped parkland’.
The site is of historic interest as it was the site of the first glasshouses in Ireland. Sir Arthur Rawdon (1662-95) was a sponsor of an expedition to Jamaica to collect plants. Over 1,000 specimens arrived and were housed under glass. Luckcombe, in A Tour Through Ireland (1779), noted, ‘… improvements and garden are extensive, furnished with a variety of good fruit, and many exotics brought thither from Jamaica, which thrive well …’ No above-ground evidence of the glasshouses exists today .
Moira Castle, erstwhile seat of the Rawdons, Earls of Moira and Marquesses of Hastings, has long gone. The Castle was eventually acquired by the Bateson Baronets, Barons Deramore.
The Bateson coat-of-arms (crest, a bat's wing) is displayed on the market-house of 1810, said to have marked the completion of the village.