The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 4: British Gardens (1100-1830)

Tree and hedge planting in Ireland

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3. Gardening in Ireland, in respect to the planting of Timber Trees and Hedges 697. Trees appear to have covered Ireland in former times. 'Though in every part of Ireland, in which I have been,' observes A. Young in 1777 (Tour, vol. ii. 2d edit.), 'one hundred contiguous acres are not to be found without evident signs that they were once wood, at least very well wooded; yet now the greatest part of the kingdom exhibits a naked, bleak, dreary view, for want of wood, which has been destroyed for a century past with the most careless prodigality, and still continues to be cut and wasted. The woods yet remaining are what in England would be called copses. The gentlemen in that country are much too apt to think they have got timber, when in fact they have got nothing but fine large copse-wood.' Shaw Mason, in a Statistical Survey of Ireland, published in 1817, says there were natural woods in some places in James II.'s time; but he produces very few instances of artificial plantations of full growth, and none of older date than the middle of the seventeenth century, when it appears, that through the instigation of Blith and other officers in Cromwell's army, some gentlemen began to plant and improve. The late Lord Chief Baron Foster was the greatest planter when A. Young visited Ireland, and his lordship informed the tourist that the great spirit for this sort of improvement began about 1749 and 1750. 'Tradition,' says Hayes, 'gives the oak of Shillela, in the county of Wicklow, the honour of roofing Westminster Hall, and other buildings of that age; the timbers which support the leads of the magnificent chapel of King's College, Cambridge, which was built in 1444, as also the roof of Henry VIII.'s Chapel at Westminster Abbey, are said to be oak from these woods. It is generally understood that some of the finest timber of Shillela, which remained in Charles II.'s time, was sold to the Dutch, and sent into Holland, for the use of the Stadthouse and other buildings. In 1669, William Earl of Strafford furnished Laurence Wood, of London, with such pipe-staves, to a great amount, at 10�. for 1000, as are now sold for 50�., and are only to be had from America.' (Treatise on Planting. &c.)