Head Gardener William Henry Lee & his family’s time at Powerscourt

Dear readers,

Here is a wonderful article by Kevin Molloy, the grandson of William Henry Lee who was the head gardener at Powerscourt from 1915 until 1946. It makes for very interesting reading – we hope you enjoy it! Thanks very much Kevin.

“My wife and I have lived in the United States for thirty seven years now. I was raised in semi
rural Rathfarnham in the Fifties and Sixties. Almost every time we are in Dublin, we pay a trip to Powerscourt, including the Waterfall, not only because of the beauty of the place, but because of my mother’s association with it.

Triton Lake Powerscourt

My grandfather was William Henry Lee who was employed as head gardener at Powerscourt
from 1915 until 1946. My grandparents were English and they had two children, also born in the UK, my uncle, Ivor Lee, born in 1909 and my mother, Kathleen Muriel Lee, born in Dorset in 1912. My grandmother’s name was Lucy Kate Downton. They made the trip to Ireland when my grandfather took up the position of head gardener at Powerscourt in 1915. They lived in the gardener’s house outside the Bamberg Gates entrance to the gardens.

My grandfather made his mark on the gardens and also was very involved with the Royal
Horticultural Society of Ireland. He judged each year at the main R.H.S. show and also judged at the Chelsea Flower Show many times. Until the last few years of his life, he made a point of visiting his son, Ivor, who had settled in London between the wars, at the time of the Chelsea Show so that he could attend the show.

My mother, who has been dead for many years now, always spoke of the idealic nature of her
upbringing at Powerscourt. It was a community unto itself and in many ways can’t have been
much different than the lives of those portrayed in Downton Abbey. There was the hierarchy of the staff at the house, the staff in the gardens and the staff for the farm and the estate. Mum maintained friendships with many of her friends from Powerscourt throughout her life.

The Wingfield Family

Powerscourt 1901 resized 600

My mother saw the Battle of Agincourt being played out for the film Henry V which was made
on the estate and remembered Laurence Olivier being around about. My mother was married
from the gardener’s house during the earlier part of World War II. Her husband died thirteen
months later. She married my father in 1944.

I am enclosing some photographs of those days showing the life my mother’s family had at
Powerscourt. They show some of the great ambience of the internal estate life. The first picture is a snapshot of my mother as a toddler with “Miss Doreen”, later grandmother
to Sarah, Duchess of York.


The next two photos are of interest. One shows my mother as a teenager with a couple and my grandmother, who is sitting in a slightly elevated position. Behind them is a glasshouse which protrudes out into the garden. This is where the Julia Pond/fountain is now located.


The other photo shows Mum as a girl in her late teens /early twenties seated on the steps up to the pool. The next photo is a shot of their home in those days.

Mum by Julia%27s Memorial resized 600

There is a photo of my mother and Uncle Ivor, as well as a friend, boating on the Triton Pool.
Powerscourt Triton Pool resized 600They were making their way to the Triton statue, as there is a photo of my uncle seating on top of the fountain also attached.

Powerscourt Ivor on the Triton resized 600

There is a photo of four estate gardeners taken standing at the garden front of the house. My grandfather, W. H. Lee is the second from the right. This photo was taken for an article in the Irish Times, late war years.

Powerscourt Grandad 2nd from right resized 600

There is an early photo if my grandfather with some prize winning Powerscourt sweet peas.

Powerscourt Grandad Sweet Peas resized 600

My mother raised Pekinese dogs for a period of time. There is a photo of her standing in front of the Bamberg Gate with some puppies.”

Pekinese resized 600

Thanks so much Kevin from everyone at Powerscourt for this wonderful insight into your family and Powerscourt at this historic time.

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