Old and Modern

An advertisement from 1740 sets out the letting of the house and gardens for lease. From the Dublin Journal 14-18th October 1740: “To be let: The House, Garden and Demesne of Oldbridge, lately the seat of John Coddington Esq, deceased, and now of his Widow: it is pleasantly situated on the river Boyne, within one Mile and a half of Drogheda, whence is a Turnpike Road to Dublin. The Demesne with House, out-houses, and Gardens contains about 140 plantation acres of Choice Lands, all enclosed by the River Boyne, and a Stone Wall, and all very finely improved, and divided into Parks, with enclosures and Gates and Piers to each Park, all in good Repair with excellent Meadows, there is all Manner of Houses and out-houses fit for a gentleman, all in good Repair, the Gardens contain variety of flowers, Fruits, Gravel and Grass Walks, and fine Hedges and are beautified by an Obelisk on the opposite side of the River. There is a beautiful Octagonal Fruitry, in which a very fine Green-House adorned with Statues, and stocked with variety of Choice Greens, and exotick Plants, the Fruitery is well planted with choice Wall Trees, and adorned with variety of Gravel and Grass Walks, with beautiful Slopes, descent and Espaliers. Enquire of Captain Dixie at Drogheda.”

The advertisement mentions a greenhouse and this must surely have been one of the first glasshouses constructed in Ireland. A greenhouse in the eighteenth century signified prestige, wealth and power.

Greehouses began being built in both the Netherlands and England throughout the 16th century, although the first glasshouses in Britain came in the form of orangeries; often built to shelter citrus fruits imported from Spain. It is thought that orangeries became popular when William III, Prince of Orange and stadholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht Gelderland and Overijssel in the Dutch Republic, became King of England, Ireland and Scotland in 1689. There was a significant amount of difficulty with these early greenhouses and providing enough heat to keep plants alive throughout the winter months was not always successful. In 1681, The Chelsea Physic Garden boasted the first stove heated greenhouse in the Britain.

The first recorded greenhouse in Ireland was at Moira, Co. Down which was erected by Sir Arthur Rawdon to house his Jamaican plants. This glass house was demolished by his grandson before 1744. In 1709 Samuel Molyneux noted a green house at Blessington, Co. Wicklow. In 1735 John Keogh mentions “ My Lord Kingston’s Green house at Mitchelstown.” The pineapple was brought to Ireland by Bullen in the reign of Queen Anne. John Phelan had a nursery and hot houses at Harold’s Cross where he grew pineapples about 1750.

Modern Greenhouse

An estate map of the 1740’s shows the Octagon garden with a long straight walk lined by lime trees which led in the direction of the main house. The octagon garden contains nine English yew trees and there may have been twelve trees originally planted. The yew trees are approximately 300 years old and the largest yew has a girth of 6.15 metres making it the third largest in Ireland. The oldest and largest yews in Ireland are located at Crom Castle, Co. Fermanagh, (the scene of two sieges in the Jacobite / Williamite wars).

Gardener’s Reference from HB Coddington on 1878.  From Emer McDaid

Gardens in 1836 OS Map

Gardens in 1909 OS Map

Built surrounding the Octagon garden in the nineteenth century, the walled garden has an unusual shape and covers three hectares. The earliest map of the kitchen garden in 1836 shows that the upper garden was divided into four unequal sized squares. The four square layout made work easier, more practical and crop rotation more manageable. The upper garden has the normal cross shape with intersecting paths. The lower garden is oddly shaped and contained the Apple Orchard. Up to twenty gardeners, apprentices and under gardeners worked in the gardens. The garden provided vegetables, soft fruits, wall fruits, herbs and flowers for the house.

The nearby stable block provided  a plentiful supply of manure. The 1882 OS map shows the double peach house on the west wall, the east wall glasshouses and an entrance near the peach house. The 1909 OS map shows the dog houses, the pithouse with adjoining glass houses and  the north wall glasshouses.

Henry Barry Coddington made improvements to the adjoining stableblock, alterations to the Octagonal Garden and constructed a number of buildings in the walled kitchen garden.

The paths were gravelled and edged by clipped box hedge. Beside the box hedges there were herbaceous borders filled with flowering plants. The lower garden contained the apple orchard which also had fruit trees along the walls. A peach house was built sometime between 1836 and 1882 which housed a peach tree and nectarine tree and by 1909 dog kennels where prize gundogs were kennelled and more glass houses were added to the walled garden.

In the twentieth century the Coddingtons built heated glasshouses in the walled garden and established a thriving market-garden business producing bedding plants for the Dublin and Drogheda markets. Lobelia, petunia, marigold, sweet pea plants were raided for sale. For the Christmas market poinsettia, chrysanthemum and cyclamen were produced and sent to Dublin by van. Oldbridge also had the maintenance contract for the window boxes in the Shelbourne Hotel. This contract also included the daily watering of these plants during the summer months.

.A number of heated glasshouses were constructed and bedding plants, potted plants and flowers were grown for the markets in Dublin and Drogheda. When strong competition came in from abroad the market garden business collapsed and the glasshouses fell into disrepair.  Local labour was employed on a seasonal basis. A number of locals received a horticultural training at Oldbridge.

Major Dixie began a commercial market garden business, pheasant shoots and the sale of salmon and trout in the Dublin fish market. A number of young people trained in horticulture at Oldbridge. In 1948 the Drogheda Independent reported “As reported in this issue a young Drogheda girl is one of three applicants chosen from amongst 100 candidates for a course of training as lady gardeners at the Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin. Naturally, people will wonder where this Drogheda girl, Miss Lucy Kelly, of 1 Railway Terrace, obtained the necessary training to qualify. She has for a year or more been one of the young local people who have been receiving horticultural education both practical and theoretical, at the splendid gardens of Capt. A. Coddington, Oldbridge, near Drogheda, Major D. Coddington (son of Capt. Coddington) since his return from the war has gone in for market and nursery gardening in a fairly extensive manner and has afforded eager youths and girls with an opportunity of learning almost the whole range of horticulture including the growing of fruit, vegetables, flowers, shrubs and rock plants. They can learn the modern scientific theory of gardening as well as the practical side and the most significant indication of the value of this training is the success of Miss Kelly, who is being taken into the rock plant department of the Botanic Gardens. There are good openings for persons qualified in the modern growing craft not only in larger private gardens, but in commercial gardens producing for the market and in seed firms’ gardens.”


The task of planting and maintaining the gardens fell to the head gardener and his team. The head gardener had to manage not only the gardens and grounds, but also the vegetable and herb gardens, orchards and greenhouses. He had to keep the walks free of weeds, clip the hedges and maintain the lawn. He made all the important decisions, in close consultation with his master and mistress. He also liaised with the cook, whom he supplied with whichever vegetables were in season, and she in turn consulted with the mistress of the house, to determine the day’s menu.

 His first task upon becoming a gardener was to become familiar with the soil, before deciding what methods of digging and plants to use (sandy loam was considered the best). He then directed his under-gardeners, who assisted him with the physical work, telling them where to dig, trench, prune or plant. The head gardener was expected to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of plants, trees and shrubs, including exotic species brought by the master from trips abroad. To aid him in the task, manuals and trade journals, such as the Gardeners Chronicle, provided expert advice.

The tools of gardeners included spades, trowels, rakes, wooden wheelbarrows (often with open sides), baskets and sprinkling cans. Lawn maintenance was a laborious task in the age before motorised mowers. Close-cropped lawns became popular after the invention of the first lawn mower in 1830 (prior to this there were no lawns as such, only well grazed fields). A horse-drawnmower was introduced in 1870, but with this came the problem of hoofmarks. The solution was the ‘horse-slipper’, a strap-on leather slipper which could be attached to each of the horse’s hooves to prevent unsightly hoof-prints.

 Lawn maintenance was made more difficult by the popularity of lawn games such as tennis, cricket, croquet, golf and archery. The playing grounds for these games had to be maintained all summer, and when games were due to be played, it was the gardeners who had to provide awnings and seating in the shade for the family and their guests. Another job of the gardeners was to provide fresh flowers for the house and to make garlands for festivities.
Gardeners had a long day, working up to 12 hours depending on the hours of daylight. Gardeners took great pride in their work and head gardeners produced top quality flowers and fruit.

Head gardeners employed in great Irish country houses were invariably of Protestant stock and Oldbridge was no exception.

Servants at Oldbridge 1901

Garden Labourer: James Craven, aged 56.

Gardener:John Low, aged 28,born Scotland Cof S. Low and Brock living in one dwelling.

Garden boy: William Brock, aged 16, born Meath, CofI.

Servants at Oldbridge 1911

Head Gardener: Edward Rutherford, aged 32, born Kildare, CofI.

Gardener: Michael Cumiskey, aged 50, born Meath RC

Garden Boy: Michael Cumiskey, aged 20, born Meath RC

Garden Boy: Patrick Cumiskey, aged 23, born Meath RC. Father and two sons all three Cumiskeys working in the gardens

Garden Servant: Archibold Boyd, aged 18, born Armagh, CofI.

Garden Servant: Henry McCann, aged 18, born Mayo, CofI.Boyd and McCann lived in the one dwelling.

Garden Servant: Edward McDonnell, aged 20, born Meath, RC.

Gardener Commits Suicide.

 Drogheda Independent, Saturday, November 18, 1916

“Another tragedy has occurred at Oldbridge. The last, which took place about two years ago, was a murder, this one is a suicide. The facts were detailed at the inquest on Saturday:—

Mr Daniel Corry, J P, the Coroner for South Meath, held an inquest on Saturday last at Coddington Hall, Oldbridge, touching the death of James Sleigh, about 35, a gardener in the employment of Captain Coddington, who was found dead the previous evening with his throat cut, in a potting shed attached to the home. Sergeant Phillips, Duleek, represented the police.

Christopher M’Cormick, assistant gardener at the Hall, said he had known Sleigh for about two year. During that time witness formed the opinion that he was a man of perfectly sound mind. Yes, there was some little matter that got him into trouble—he was before the R M. Coroner—I do not think we need go into that case. Witness—Deceased was crying and fretting about what he had done for about three days after it had happened. He was brought before the R.M. on November 1st and remanded. Witness last saw him alive about 1.10 on the previous day (Friday). He was then at work in the garden as usual and was quite sober. But he looked unwontedly pale, and just barely replied to witness when the latter enquired what was to be done after dinner. When witness returned to the garden about five o’clock he went into the potting shed, where he found deceased lying dead with his throat out. Jas Stafford, Thos Martin and Frank Cogan had left the garden with witness at 1.10 o’clock and did not return until five o’clock. In spite of a row the steward, Richard G Henry, deceased seemed always to be friendly with each other. In fact, Sleigh often said since November 1st, that the steward was a very nice man and he (deceased) was very sorry for what he had done.

Joseph Lynch, groom, said he also knew Sleigh for over two years. His mental condition was perfectly sound. Witness had been speaking to him at 9 o’clock the previous morning. At that time he was looking very well; but since Wednesday he had seemed greatly depressed and only bade the time of the day to witness, with whom he had been always cheerful and pleasant previously. On Monday when talking to Sleigh the latter told witness he had lost his character and might get gaol. He said Mr Henry was a very nice man, and it was through some stories he had heard he had done the wrong.

Dr Hunt said he was summoned to Oldbridge at 5.15 the previous day and he arrived about 5.30. He went straight to the house in the garden and found a man lying with his face towards the east and his head to the west. His face was on the ground, and there was a pool of blood, round his neck. There was blood sprinkled all round the house. There was a blood-stained razor on a bench quite close. He was absolutely dead and had been for some hours, as the body was quite cold. There was a very large, lacerated wound in the neck. This wound extended from one angle of the jaw to the other. It cut right into the bone. The bone itself was even cut. The wind pipe and food passage were completely cut. The skin was so lacerated that it was evident there must have been several attempts to cause the wound. The hands were tightly closed. In witness’s opinion death was due to haemorrhage resultant on the wound. The jury found a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence and added that in their opinion the wound was self-inflicted during a fit of temporary insanity. They expressed sorrow with the deceased’s widow, to whom the coroner also offered his condolence.

The deceased, who was a native of Scotland, was aged 35 years, had been about two years at Oldbridge and was married.”


The tall perimeter wall had a strong aesthetic value, but also provided a very valuable function; to raise the temperature of the garden and provide a more protective environment for the plants within. The walls would absorb the heat of the sun during the day and release the heat slowly during the evening and through the night.

The brickwork bond in the Octagon walls appears to be Flemish bond but there is some variation. It is unusual that the walls have this rarer bond as English Garden bond was more common. There are also darker red bricks which are shorter, broader and more uniform in shape which have been used in the two double entrances, the north wall of the garden and the brick retaining wall of the central sunken garden. Two of the entrances are primarily constructed of a red uniform brick which appears machine made and probably dates to later than 1850. The same brick appears in the north wall which incorporates the back wall of the bothy. This may indicate that the north wall of the octagon was removed in the nineteenth century when the bothy was constructed. There is a sealed-up door which connected the bothy to the octagon garden.   The Octagon garden was linked to Oldbridge House by a broad walk lined with lime trees. During the twentieth century the sunken lower part of the garden contained flower beds with spring bulbs and other decorative plants.

By the 1840s bricks were being made in 150 different locations in Ireland. Bricks were often taken on in English ports as ballast for a return journey to Ireland. A 19th/20th-century brick clamp or kiln was located near the Oldbridge Estate boundary wall, south of the Boyne Canal, on the south side of the slope. The location was the margin of the gravel and the marshy area that runs under the current Oldbridge–Drogheda road to the canal. The area of excavation was c. 6.6m by 7.2m. It appeared as a spread of burning and red brick with red brick being the most prevalent. The bricks were laid on their side, with the average brick size being 0.22m in length by 0.1m in width by 0.06m. The largest surviving drying bricks formed a surface up to two courses in height. These overlay a heavily scorched area with frequent charcoal flecks. This overlays the natural gravel. A larger surface of crushed red brick, coal and charcoal was excavated on either side. A deposit of brown clay with charcoal and frequent brick fragments was located on the eastern side.

In the “Gruggins” field at Oldbridge there is a marshy swamp called the “Brick Hole”. It is said that about 1850 bricks were made there. The clay was got out of the hole and brought up to the village of Oldbridge and made into bricks. When they were finished they were of a blue colour. The Brick Hole is down along the road running beside the Boyne. It is lower than the river, and through time was gradually filled up with water, and now it is full of reeds and mud, but it was still called the “Brick Hole” a hundred years ago.

About 400 years ago bricks were made at Loc-a-wanny near Donore,  Drogheda. There is a little house in the Churchyard at Donore, and it is said that the bricks used in building it were made at Loc-a-wanny.

Walled Gardens:

Practicality as well as aesthetics was important in the gardens of the 17th and 18th centuries. The walled gardens were built of brick, which retained the heat for the fruit trees, while the vegetables were planted ornately, but grown for use in the house. It was all about being sustainable and well managed, so that the demesne could pay for itself. A door in the basement of the house led to the stableyard and on to the walled garden. High walls protected the garden from thieves and animals but also created a micro-climate which was warmer and less windy than outside. The walls were covered with fruit trees and glasshouses in order to maximise the growing potential of the garden.

The walled garden provided a ‘micro climate’ in which to propagate exotic flowers, vegetables and fruits. The warm brick structure of the walls encouraged growth and afforded protection from wind and frost. Shade and scale were provided by magnificent examples of Irish Yew and Rhododendron. The garden is to the south of the house so it would not be in shadow. A wooded shelter belt protects the garden from the mainly westerly winds. There were three pear trees growing on the inside wall of the garden.

Prestige gardening was an elite hobby. At the 1843 Drogheda Horticultural Society exhibition H.B. Coddington and his gardener, Mr. Brady won a number of prizes including for salad, melon, plums, baking apples, baking pears, carnations and white carrots. At the second show in July that year H.B. Coddington and his gardener, Mr. Brady, won prizes for gooseberries, baking apples, eating apples, roses and tender annuals. In 1870 John Nicholas Coddington  and his gardener, Mr. Marry, swept the prizes in hollyhocks, gladiolas, cut roses and displays of fruit and flower stands at the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland’s summer show.

Fruit Walls

The garden walls are built of limestone rubble, which are generally over three metres in height. South-facing walls were the best walls and were used for growing apricots, peaches and nectarines.

The west garden wall takes  in a broad sweeping curve. A double peach glasshouse was constructed on the west wall. It is first shown on the 1882 OS map. The house was of a lean to construction resting on a brick foundation. The peach house measures 19.5m by 4 m in width. A ventilation system was in place along with 10cm heating pipes. The southern section has an attractive floor with horizontal lozenge shaped slender stones laid in rows. Beside the door was a slate water trough and overhead cistern.

East-facing walls were for growing sweet cherries, early plums, apples and figs. The east garden wall is constructed of limestone quarry and field stones with random rubble. It runs south and then bends south-west. It was topped with ridgeback capping. There are eight espalier trained pear trees on the wall. The wall varies from 2.3 m high at the north-east corner to 3.37 m for a 13m section. There was a lean to glasshouse constructed at this section. There were a number of pedestrian entrances along this wall now all closed. A demolished section was re-constructed by the OPW. The pedestrian entrance has architraving of cut limestone in a block and start pattern on its external side while its lining and interior surround is of brick.  West-facing walls were for growing peaches, greengages and early pears.

South-facing borders were warmed by the sun and reflected heat from the walls. They grew aromatic herbs, early lettuces, peas, early and late kidney beans, early broad beans and strawberries. West and east facing borders were for growing flowers.

The south garden wall was at a height of 3.8 metres. Five external stone piers buttress the wall at various points along its length. The wall is not straight.  Larger stones form the lower part of the wall while the upper section is constructed using smaller stones. North-facing borders were used to transplant strawberries and salads to in the spring.

North-facing walls were the coldest and were for growing acidic fruits such as gooseberries, currants and cherries. There was an entrance to the garden from the stableyard. This is the exit from the house to the gardens today. Along the north wall a barn with a barrel corrugated iron roof was constructed. This was removed after 2000.

A water tank to supply the garden was located at the junction of the south and east walls. This stone tank was supplied from a water reservoir on the gravel escarpment of the Greenhills. A water channel ran along the east wall for about 60 metres. The channel was covered in parts by slate slabs to prevent water evaporation and silting.

Sunken Pit House

The sunken pit house was built of brick and glass and was used for the propagation of flower seeds. It was constructed before 1909. The pit house was 35cm below the outside ground level. Seedlings were transferred to the adjoining glass houses for further maturing. Flowers such as lobelia, pansy, marigold, sweet pea and petunia were grown for the Dublin and Drogheda markets.

The pit house had underground heating for their flowers to flourish during all seasons. A Robin hood boiler was linked to it and had to be in operation 24 hours of the day. Therefore, during the night usually a junior apprentice would ensure the temperature was consistent.


In front of the Octagon is the Bothy. The name Bothy came from the Irish and Scottish word that means a cottage or hut. The Bothy was used as living accommodation for the garden staff and also as a potting shed. The ground floor was split into three rooms as was the first floor. The floor of the building was clay. There were three brick-built  storage areas at the rear of the central compartment. There was one large entrance door which could accommodate larger equipment. This building has a slate roof and is constructed of quarried limestone with cut quoins at the wall ends. Each gardener had his own tools and their initials were often stamped on the tools and the hooks where they were stored.


The Orchard grew approximately 18 apple trees. Today the orchard contains old varieties of dessert and cooking apple such as Blood of the Boyne (Devonshire Quarrenden) and No Surrender (Martin’s Seedling). Seedling crab apples have also been planted for cross-pollination. Apart from the use of the apples themselves, apple trees were often planted beside kitchen gardens to attract birds away from the more prized fruits in the garden. The orchard also provided a shelter-belt and an area for secluded walks.

Once widely grown in Meath,  Blood of the Boyne may not be an Irish heritage apple, as it is thought to be identical to Devonshire Quarrenden, an old apple from the English west country. An early dessert apple, the fruit is small, round and a vivid purplish blood-colour. This is an apple to be eaten fresh from the tree. The flesh is soft, sweet and white, sometimes tinged pink, with a taste of strawberries. A very attractive tree when in fruit. Tendency to biennial bearing, so be sure to thin the developing fruit.

Martins Seedling is also known as ‘No Surrender’. It is a large, early green cooker. Very sweet for a cooking apple meaning it needs very little added sugar. According to published records this apple which resembles ‘Echlinville Seedling’, was raised in Co. Antrim by one James Martin, and the date must have been well before 1900.

There are also pear trees on the east side of the garden and on the other side of the walled garden there is a lime tree avenue.

Dog Kennels

The Dog Kennel is shown on the OS maps from 1909. It housed gundogs which were owned and bred by the Coddington family. These champion dogs took top prizes in shows in Dublin and Belfast. The Dog Kennels contain four separate kennels with four “runs”. The walls were plastered and had painted wooden panelling on the upper sections. The kennels are surrounded by a low stone wall topped with an iron railing. These kennels are very unique and not very common in Ireland. They are quite unusual in the level that they are finished, and the quality of materials used for them.

 A tree fell from the shrubbery outside the walled garden and damaged the roof of the dog kennels.

Octagon Garden

Southward of the bothy is the Octagon Garden. This eight-sided structure was the earliest walled garden at Oldbridge. It was described in 1740 as a “fruit garden” with a summerhouse  which contained a vine and a group of classical figures. On its walls were trained espalier fruit trees. This may account for the many nail-holes which can be seen on both sides of the brick walls today. In the centre of the garden was a sundial. Estate maps from the 1750s confirm that the octagonal garden wall and the yew trees existed before the Walled Kitchen Garden which surrounds it today. There is indication that there was a path around the upper area of the Octagon Garden, probably with grassed paths. The walls are of brick construction with lime mortar, The bricks’ soft colours vary from cream to yellow and from orange to ochre. They have the appearance of hand moulded bricks. They could have been made at Oldbridge but Drogheda is a more likely source as it had a strong brickmaking tradition. There are 4 entrances to the Octagon Garden roughly, north, south, east and west. Each entrance was bounded by a pair of Irish Yew trees and in the centre of the sunken octagon there was a sun dial on a stone pedestal. The Yew trees within the garden were planted shortly after the Battle of the Boyne. Yew trees are known for their longevity and also associated with graveyards and deaths.

Henry Barry Coddington made improvements to the adjoining stableblock, alterations to the Octagonal Garden and constructed a number of buildings in the walled kitchen garden.

The Victorian sunken garden inside the octagon is a bowl shape structure.  These gardens were very popular throughout the Edwardian period of the 1900’s. The formal traditional English garden, it was usually set up a foot below the level of the main ground surrounding it. It is believed that when roses are planted within these sunken gardens, that they are the perfect place to trap and hold the scent of flowers. In the twentieth century there were flower beds in the central area of the Octagon. These beds were filled mainly with spring bulbs, herbaceous and bedding plants. Mrs. Joan Coddington spent a considerable amount of time and energy gardening in the Octagonal Garden. By 2000 the garden was overgrown by brambles, nettles and self seeded trees.

Within the Octagon at the back wall of the bothy was the vine house. This structure was southward facing in order to ensure enough sunlight and maximum heat. It appears on the 1882 OS map. By 2000 the wooden elements of this building had decayed, and it was removed. The white grape vine which grew in the house would have been planted in the soil outside and gained access into the house though an opening in the lower wall.

On the upper area within the garden there is a planting of nine English Yew trees, Taxus Baccata. Originally there might have been twelve trees which can be identified on the 1836 OS map.  These trees would have been clipped and shaped but have been now left grow untrained. These trees are approximately three hundred years old, having been planted shortly after the Battle of the Boyne.  The largest yew tree has a girth of 6.15m which makes it the third largest yew tree in Ireland. Three other yew trees are over 5m in girth making them some of the largest in Ireland. Interspersed between the yew trees are rhododendrons. These were planted during the Victorian period and originate from Headfort House, Kells, Co. Meath.

There are a number of octagonal gardens throughout the British Isles. Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire is a five-acre garden designed by Capability Brown for the Earl of Bute.  Sledmere House, Yorkshire has  two and a half acres with Capability Brown as one of the designers. The gardens at  Kinlochaich House in Scotland was designed by John Campbell about 1790. All of these gardens date to later than the Octagonal Garden at Oldbridge. The octagonal shape means that there are no dark corners. In October 2014 Minister Simon Harris officially opened the restored octagonal walled gardens at Oldbridge. Octagon garden sculptures

Hercules famous for his strength and adventures

Venus – goddess of love and beauty

Apollo national deity of the Greeks god of archery, music and dance

Laocoon, the son of Acoetes, a Trojan priest who is attacked by giant serpents sent by the gods. Laocoon offended Apollo by breaking his oath of celibacy.

Back Lawn

Through the gate beside the green house, is the back lawn. At the rear of the house is a terrace with an area of lawn bounded by trees and shrubs. The lawn area was used for bowling, croquet and tennis in the twentieth century.  Formal walkways were laid though the woodlands. Holly trees were planted for shelter and protection through its spiky leaves. On the female plant berries grow which are toxic to humans but very important source of food for wildlife.

The Walled Garden Today

The main design goal for the garden was to reflect the history of the Battle of the Boyne through colour schemes. Strong oranges and yellows representing William of Orange contrast with the blues and whites intended to represent the French and Irish sides. The two sides met and bloodshed resulted so there are red flowers.

The history of Victorian gardens was a secondary influence on plant selection. Plants that were popular in Victorian times were included, as well as plants whose names would have a connection to the site such as Geranium “Terre de Franche” to represent the French and Potentilla atrosanguinea with the Latin for blood in its name.

Lastly the garden is intended to peak in July, coinciding with the Battle of the Boyne. Bulbs add spring interest and some late flowering perennials will add some Autumnal colour. This garden should look its best from July to August. The far end of the garden has an edible and medicinal focus, placed close to the glasshouses.

The plantings of the herbaceous border allows for a continued flowering season from early Spring to late Autumn.  A river of blue Eryngiumx Tripartium run through the border.  Lupins, helenium and achillea are also planted.

Butterfly friendly plants at Oldbridge include Buddleia, hebe, verbena, lavender, sedum, marjoram, chives, wild thyme, aster michelmas daisy and grape hycanth.

The white flowering bush  at the corner of tea pavilion and entrance yard  is choisya – common name Mexican Orange Mexican orange (Choisya ternata) and flowers May/June.

Walled Garden Original Plant List

Lavender: English Lavender






White mugworth

Common blue aster

Lesser catmint


Broad leaf chervil



Sea holly




Scarlet avens gerecian rose

Scarlet avens boris avens

Iris Siberian iris

Torchlilly Red hot poker


Bee balm bergamont



Mountain fleece


Moth mullein

Purple mullein

Garden speedweall

Michaelmas Daisy

Asteramellus, the European Michaelmas daisyThe English common name derives from the flowers being in bloom during Michaelmas (the Feast of St. Michael the archangel) This plant is present on the European mountains from the  Pyranees and the Alps to the Carpathians.

Echium Pininana

Echium pininana ‘Blue Steeple’ Tower of Jewels  is a stunning biennial plant from the Canary Islands. In its first year it forms a low rosette of silver, hairy, spear-like leaves, and then in the second year it sends up a huge spike loaded with small blue flowers. It makes a dramatic statement in a sunny, sheltered garden, and is extremely attractive to bees. It has been given the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by the Royal Horticultural Society. Be careful when handling as the sap can irritate the skin and the whole plant is toxic of eaten.

Goat’s Beard

Goats beard: Aruncus ‘Horatio’ Horatio is a clump-forming perennial up to 1.2 metres tall with finely divided mid-green leaves that develop red tones in the Autumn. Upright stems bear plumes of tiny cream-white flowers in early-midsummer, which gradually turn brown. A poultice from the root can be applied to bee stings.


Cardoon: Cynara cardunculus, Cardoon, Artichoke: A majestic, herbaceous perennial, with  a wonderfully architectural appearance. From late June, huge artichoke-like buds open into purple thistle-like flower, honey scented and very attractive to pollinators. The Leaves are used internally in the treatment of chronic liver and gall bladder diseases, jaundice, arteriosclerosis and the early stages of late-onset diabetes. Artichokes and cardoons are mentioned as forming part of early medieval monastery gardens.

New Zealand Flax

New Zealand flax can be used instead of ornamental grass in areas where you need more texture and a dash of color. Brought to Ireland in the 19th century as a potential source of fibre. It is not related to flax but its leaves was used to create fibre but easier plants and methods were soon developed.

Lysimacha Snow Candle

Common Name: loosestrife . The genus name honors King Lysimachus (661-281 B.C.), Macedonian King of Thrace and is derived from lysimacheios which was the ancient Greek name of a plant in this grouping.

Potentilla astrosanguinea

Common name dark crimson cinquefoil. Sanguis is Latin for blood. P. atrosanguinea is a clump-forming perennial with three-lobed leaves covered in silky hairs. The red, orange or yellow flowers are carried in loose, open sprays on wiry stems in summer

Potentilla atrosanguinea, the dark crimson cinquefoil, Himalayan cinquefoil, or ruby cinquefoil, is a species of Pontillia found in Bhutan and India.

Geranium Terre de Franche

Geranium Terre de Franche – Johnson’s Blue – in flower in July, common name:Cranesbill Cranesbill is old English for the appearance of the long, beak-like fruit capsules that form on some varieties. Terre  de Franche’ is a mound-forming, herbaceous perennial with rounded, deeply-lobed, veined, mid-green leaves and, in summer, single, cup-shaped, blue flowers with purple veins. Its grey-green, velvety leaves form an attractive dome, and the purple flowers have beautiful blue veins that are outlined in red.

English Lavender

English Lavender – Lavandula Hidcote flowers July to September

A compact form of the popular English lavender, named after plantsman Laurence Johnston’s famous Arts and Crafts garden in Gloucestershire.

Crocosmia Lucifer

Crocosmia Lucifer – flowers August to September  Crocosmias forms dense clumps of upright sword-shaped foliage, from which sprays of bright orange or red flowers, carried in branched spikes, appear in late summer.

‘Crocosmia Lucifer’ is a robust perennial with pleated mid-green leaves and arching stems of bold tomato-red flowers in summer. Native to South Africa.

Mediterranean sea holly

Eryngium bourgatii, the Mediterranean sea holly, is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae native to Morocco, Lebanon. Turkey, France and Spain.  It is a a herbaceous perennial growing to 15–45 cm (6–18 in) tall. The spherical blue flowerheads have spiny bracts.

The plant was named for a French medical doctor named Bourgat who collected plants in the Pyrenees in the company of Antoine Gouan, the author of the species, in 1766–67.

Lilac Squirrel or Pink Squirrel Tail

Lilac Squirrel’ Korean burnet (S. hakusanensis ‘ Lilac Squirrel’) has very dramatic flowers. Playful purple-pink squirrel tails on raspberry-hued stalks nod elegantly from early summer nearly to frost. Large, arching and bushy lilac-pink “squirrel tails” on tall stems add a whimsical note to the late spring and early summer border. It’s tolerant of many conditions. It comes from Japan and is named after the mountain, Haku.

Black-Eyed Susan

Rudbeckia hirta, commonly known as Black-Eyed Susan. Beloved by pollinators, black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) generally bloom from June to August. A member of the aster family, Asteraceae, and native to North America, Black-eyed Susans are meant to symbolize justice. The genus name Rudbeckia honors Swedish scientists Olaus Rudbeck (1630–1702) and his son, Olof Rudbeck (1660–1740). The species name hirta means “hairy” and refers to the short bristles that cover the leaves.

Achillea filipendula “Cloth of Gold”

Achillea filipendula “Cloth of Gold” yellow Yarrow Flowers from mid to late summer. Fragrant, suitable for cut flowers and dried flowers. Used for fever, common cold, hay fever, dysentery, diarrhea, loss of appetite and to induce sweating. Fern leaf yarrow.

Achillea ‘Cloth of Gold’ grows best in full sun in well-drained soil.

They are the perfect plant to attract pollinators to an area. Divide clumps every three to five years.

Seedum Autumn Joy

A plant with a confusion of name changes, better known as Sedum Autumn Joy but also known as Hylotelephium telephium ‘Herbstfreude’. Herbstfreude meaning Autumn Joy. From August to October, dense, flat heads of tiny flowers appear, green at first, then salmon-pink, before deepening to a rich brick-red in autumn, and eventually brown. The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies.

Rhodendron Ponticum

Introduced from Headfort House. The gardens at Headfort were formally of international renown, principally for their conifers and rhododendrons. Their heyday was probably the late 30s but quite a lot still survives, though the walkways are now overgrown. Seed for the rhododendrons was collected by Lord Headfort  directly from the Himalayas. The fourth Marquis was president of the Royal Horticultural Society from 1915-45.