For Oral Answer on : 01/03/2022
Question Number(s): 89 Question Reference(s): 11406/22
Department: Public Expenditure and Reform
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the progress made with respect to the development and restoration of a house and gardens (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) Anne’s Grove House and Gardens, Castletownroche, Co. Cork;
Firstly, I’d like to thank Deputy Stanton for his question in relation to Annes Grove House and Gardens, in Castletownroche, Co. Cork.
The gardens at Annes Grove are of international significance, primarily because of their famous plant collection which contains an outstanding range of rhododendron species. The Grove Annesley family nurtured and developed a unique landscape over multiple generations until they generously donated the Estate to the Irish people in 2015. The majority of the gardens today dates from the early 20th century which was developed under the stewardship of Richard Grove Annesley. He was an avid plant collector and supported several plant hunting expeditions during the first half of the 20th century, notably the expeditions of Frank Kingdon-Ward. The great history of plant collecting in Ireland across the centuries is to some extent, not widely understood or appreciated and so the renovation of Annes Grove House and Gardens offers a unique opportunity to explore this aspect of our great historic gardens which are part of our national heritage.
Annes Grove is also an exemplar Robinsonian-style garden in Ireland, situated adjacent to the river Awbeg. The Robinsonian method was developed by William Robinson, from Co. Waterford, who championed a naturalistic approach to garden design and promoted the concept of the ‘wild garden’.
Since 2015, The Office of Public Works (OPW) has managed and conserved the Estate on behalf of the people of Ireland. The Estate consists of 190 acres, encompassing the Demesne, gardens, parkland, 18th century house and outbuildings. This first phase of capital works is coming to a close in quarter one of 2022, with a total investment of €2,162,935.19 to date, by the OPW.
Phase 1 identified areas for immediate attention, such as, commencing the restoration of the gardens, and of outbuildings in very poor repair and in danger of subsequent collapse. Throughout 2016 – 2019, good progress was made on repairing/rebuilding estate walls, roads, paths and car parking facilities. Windows and plasterwork were restored to the front of the house and new roofs installed on some of the 18th century farm yard buildings. Many overgrown areas were cut back and replanting works commenced.
I understand from my officials that, in 2019, the OPW commissioned a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) of Annes Grove House & Gardens to describe the history and significance of the site, identify issues and threats and to outline conservation and design strategies. This document will inform future decisions regarding the management of the Estate. From 2020 – 2021, the OPW completed emergency repair works to the roof of the stable buildings in the north courtyard to prevent them from collapse and provided urgent repairs to paths, steps and ancillary works to the gardens to facilitate a 2022 opening to the public.
The OPW is currently scoping and planning a second phase of capital works for Annes Grove. In 2019, the OPW was successful in seeking funding under the Rural Regeneration Development Fund and was awarded €375,000 in grant funding to appoint an Integrated Design Team, led by Howley Hayes Cooney Architects to bring this Phase 2 scheme to planning application stage in 2022. This planning application will seek permission for the refurbishment and development of visitor facilities on site, such as, ticket office, café, exhibition spaces, and conservation of the main House for interpretation of the history of Annes Grove and its unique plant collection.
It is envisaged that Annes Grove Gardens will become a strong destination for visitors, particularly international visitors with an interest in gardens. With its close proximity to Doneraile Court and Estate which is just ten kilometres away, the OPW plans to market both heritage attractions as a package of designed landscapes and gardens in north Cork, managed and operated by the OPW.
The OPW is committed to working with local stakeholders to ensure the re-opening of Annes Grove provides a sustainable, economic and social benefit to the local community, and that it will support tourism in the local area. My officials are working closely with the Grove Annesley family who have preserved and cared for the Estate throughout the generations, Ballyhoura Development, Avondhu Blackwater Partnership, Cork County Council and members of the public and local community interest groups to ensure the future success of Annes Grove as a new visitor destination in North Cork.
The scale of ambition for Annes Grove is substantial and is subject to available funding and resources. As a result, the OPW plans to open the site on a phased basis, beginning in 2022 with an initial offering where visitors access the extensive garden and riverside walks and enjoy a catering offering on site. The gardens will be accessible by paid guided tour only which will concentrate on the gardens and the internationally significant plant collection. Visitors will also have opportunities to explore some areas of the restored courtyards.
I look forward to joining the Deputy and other local stakeholders in mid-late April of this year as we celebrate the opening of Annes Grove gardens to the public.