Fota Frameyard Blog

Gardening, Nature and Heritage from Fota House

Laying out the gardens at Fota


A new exhibition has opened in the Victorian Working Garden at Fota House, on the life of William Beswick, Head Gardener, 1901-1915. Gathering information for the exhibition has been a fascinating journey and Catherine and I have enjoyed every minute of the research.  We have discovered some very interesting and relevant information that we thought we would share with you to compliment the opening of this exhibition.

Shortly after James Hugh Smith Barry inherited Marbury Hall in 1841, he consulted the leading landscape gardener of the time William Andrew Nesfield to re-design the gardens surrounding Marbury Hall, in Cheshire.  Nesfield recommended his brother-in-law Anthony Salvin for the remodeling of the house.


Layout of the gardens at Marbury Hall, Cheshire

The gardens at Marbury Hall included Nesfield’s typical parterre, a rose garden with clipped yew hedges, lime avenues, banks of rhododendrons and an arboretum. 

Does this sound familiar?

Yes, William Nesfield also designed the grounds of Fota House and around 1841 began to create the terraces and gardens more or less as they are today.

Fota House Parterre 1

Parterre at Fota House, later turned into a lawn by Dorothy Bell

William Andrews Nesfield was born in 1793 at Chester-le-Street, Co Durham and died in 1881.  He was educated at Durham school after which, he joined the army and fought under Wellington in Spain and at the Battle of Waterloo, as well as serving for two years in Canada before retiring in 1816.  He then took up a career in watercolour painting and earned the respect of John Ruskin.  While still exhibiting at the Old Water Colour Society, he began to work as a professional landscape architect, with the encouragement of his architect brother-in-law Anthony Salvin who was married to William Nesfield’s younger sister.

William Nesfield is now acknowledged as the leading British garden designer of the mid-nineteenth century and some of his works that we all might be familiar with are the formal Avenue Gardens in Regent’s Park, London.


William Nesfield water-colour of the garden he designed at Castle Howard, 1852

The parterre at Castle Howard in Yorkshire and in 1844 William Nesfield was asked to redesign the grounds and arboretum at Kew Gardens in London.

Incidentally his brother-in-law Anthony Salvin gained a reputation in Britain as an expert on medieval buildings and applied this expertise to designing new buildings and his restorations of old castles and churches.


Royal Cork Yacht Club, Cobh, Co. Cork

The Royal Cork Yacht Club building in Cobh (now the Sirius Centre) is the only major work attributed to him in Ireland.

Sally, Fota Volunteer

The Head Gardener – An exhibition on the life of William Beswick and his family, Head Gardener at Fota House 1901-1915, is on at the Bothy in the Victorian Working Garden at Fota House and Gardens, Cork. Open: Mon-Fri 10 am to 3 pm. Closed Sat. Sunday 1-4 pm. Running until the end of September. Entry Free. All Welcome. Some materials relating to the exhibition are on display at Fota House, including a rare, beautifully illustrated, 1930 Lily Catalogue from the Yokohama Nursery Company, Japan. 




Author: fotaframeyardblog

We are volunteers at the Victorian Working Garden at Fota House in County Cork, Ireland.

2 thoughts on “Laying out the gardens at Fota

  1. This sounds very interesting. I’ve a half chance of visiting on Thursday next and hope to be able to do so. Good article!


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