woburn & its history
Im very fortunate to be able to work from my home, Woburn Lodge, in a studio surrounded by a beautiful old woodland garden and arboretum. The garden once formed part of the estate of Woburn House, Millisle, in County Down in Northern Ireland, the seat of George Dunbar, a successful linen merchant and one time Mayor of Belfast.
Back in 1798 the property comprised two town lands, Ballyrolly and Drumfad, but Woburn House wasn’t built until after 1830. It was originally built as a modest summer house but was extensively enlarged and aggrandised in the 1860’s. There was a handsome cut stone working farm, designed by Lanyon & Lynn, with an extensive walled garden where fruit, vegetables and flowers were grown for the house, as well as for sale commercially.
the original house before it was extended in the 1860's
The Dunbars, like many wealthy Victorians, set about planting their demesne with many of the newly discovered exotic trees which were being introduced to Great Britain in the mid 19th century. Many came from North America, like the Monterey cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa, and the Monterey pine, Pinus radiata from California.
Very fashionable at the time were the Wellingtonias, Sequoiadendron giganteum, from the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California which are the biggest trees in the world, growing ultimately to almost 300' high. From the Himalayas came the beautiful and elegant Cedrus deodar which at Woburn forms a multi stemmed tree and is known affectionately as the ‘Celery Tree’. The mild maritime climate of the Ards peninsula has been to their liking and they now form the backdrop to the rest of the garden.
My grandfather, Reynell Pack-Beresford inherited Woburn from his cousin Georgiana Dunbar-Buller in the 1920 s. He had been brought up at a property called Fenagh in County Carlow which also had a wonderful tree collection and his English wife Florence was a keen gardener.
my grandmother florence and her wonderful wicker wheelbarrow. her domain was the walled garden and the herbaceous borders, now sadly only recalled in a few precious old sepia photographs, and in her diaries, notebooks and plant lists
my grandmother's plant lists and garden diary
1930's - 1970's
It was my father, Arthur Pack-Beresford, who resurrected George Dunbar’s pleasure garden, thinned out the trees and introduced an astonishing variety of interesting and beautiful shrubs beginning in the 1930 s. Woburn, known as the ‘big house' was sold in the late 1950 s and he and his wife, Euphie built themselves a small house in a glade off the old back avenue, amongst his beloved trees and shrubs, where I still live.
Pictured above on the left is my father, (who always gardened in a tweed jacket, vyella shirt & tie, with a clean linen handkerchief in his pocket), with me watching on from my pram. On the right you can see me hitching a ride in the donkey cart with the old gardener Henry Blair, always known as 'Wee Henry'
My Father grew many plants from seed which he gathered on his wartime travels whilst in the Merchant Navy. Examples are Cornus capitata, a dogwood native to the Himalayas of China and India, but naturalised in Australia and Pittosporum tenuifolium, a New Zealand native, now both impressive specimens.
his real interest lay in species rhododendrons, many of which he sourceD from the great irish gardens and nurseries of the time, such as mount congreve, mountstewart and rowallane.
Other plants came from his cousin Denis Pack-Beresford at Fenagh in Carlow. Another cousin, Sir George Campbell, who created the wonderful gardens at Crarae in Argyll (now owned by the National Trust for Scotland) gave him both plants and encouragement whilst HH Davidian of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh gave advise on the identification of many of the older rhododendrons in the collection.
my father arthur pack-beresford with h.h davidian rbge