THE SAGA involving the future of the Mount Congreve estate outside Waterford started back in 1979 when Ambrose Congreve transferred his personal ownership to the Mount Congreve Trust at a meeting with the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch. At the same time, an agreement with the State provided for the House and sixty-six acres of his magnificent gardens to be transferred from the Trust to the State – but with a little proviso that turned out to be most unfortunate. The transfer was not to happen until 21 years after Ambrose’s death, which finally happened in May 2011, thus indicating that the transfer could not occur until 2032. And so the best intentioned plan has led to dispute and delay ever since.
But now at last, a new agreement will see the Trust transfer the House and Gardens (which have been temporarily under the care of the National Botanic Gardens) into the control of Waterford City and Council which must be good news for all concerned as Michael Walsh the CEO of WCC has such a good record in preserving the Heritage buildings in Waterford city itself.
This time of year is, of course, the very best for a visit to the magnificent gardens created by Ambrose Congreve and described by Patrick Bowe in the IAR Summer 2004 ‘as justly rated as the most outstanding in Europe. More than eighty trees of magnolia campelli flower in the riverside walk alone. There are more than fifty different camellia cultivars in cultivation. Banks of hydrangeas, sometimes hundreds of yards in length, extend along the lowest series of walks. Giant leaved Himalayan rhododendrons planted in large groups provide dramatic reflections of flower colour of their native mountainsides.’
It would be hard to exaggerate the value to Waterford Tourism of the hugely extensive and varied Congreve gardens
It would be hard to exaggerate the value to Waterford Tourism of the hugely extensive and varied Congreve gardens. Let’s hope that the new authorities will plant a few forget-me-nots in honour of the Congreve family who lived there since 1760, and of Ambrose not a trace of whom can now be found anywhere in the estate although his wife, Margaret Gholson Glasgow, is buried in a mysterious but most beautiful spot within the grounds. JM
Image: Ambrose Congreve Photo: Norman Parkinson