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Survey of Historic Gardens and Designed Landscapes

We have a rich heritage of gardens and designed landscapes.  Demesnes, a word now particular to Ireland, date back to the Anglo-Normans, when they formed the portion of a manor retained by the lord for his own occupation and use.  But the great flourishing of garden design came in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries - with "geometric" layouts being replaced by more natural layouts in the later period.  This was also the period when many of our town squares and public gardens were developed.  The designs and subsequent changes reflect the aesthetic, cultural and social aspirations of their owners and users.

The objective of this survey is to begin a process of understanding the extent of Ireland's historic gardens and designed landscape.  Sites were identified using the 1st edition Ordnance Survey maps.  These were compared with current aerial photography to assess the level of survival and change.  This assessment is not an indication of a site's heritage importance.  Fieldwork is now in progress to compile more accurate data and site assessments.  The results will be added to the website as this work progresses.

Various factors have contributed to many of the significant changes that have occurred.  Changes in aesthetic values and the development and expansion of our cities and towns have played a part.  But the most significant are a direct result of 150 years of history, particularly changes in land ownership arising from the Encumbered Estates Act 1849 to the Land Acts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

We hope that all those interested in Ireland's garden and social history will use and enjoy this site.

We welcome comments, corrections or further information at



The NIAH was awarded a prize in the Research category of the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards.  The Prize was launched jointly by the European Commission and Europa Nostra in 2002 as part of the implementation of the European Union Culture Programme.  The aims are twofold: to promote high standards and quality skills of conservation practice and to stimulate the trans-frontier exchanges in the heritage field.  By furthering the "power of example", the Prize also aims to encourage further exemplary initiatives in favour of heritage throughout Europe.

The jury's report commented: "The methodological approach toward Irish landscape and gardens has generated much interest among the Jury.  This research permitted the setting up of an identification and classification system for gardens that could be used as a prototype for a general inventory of European parks and gardens."