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Powerscourt Paddock Ponds - from someone who grew up there!

I recently posted a blog on the history of Powerscourt Paddock Ponds, the two artificial lakes in a glen in Powerscourt deer park and a popular place with walkers. From this I was contacted by Henry Pinkerton, who lived in the Paddock Lodge in the 1950's and he generously shared these photographs with me. The image below is taken from a newspaper in 1947, showing a snowy scene taken from above Paddock Lodge, looking east. The snows of 1947 began on 18th January 1947 and lasted in the Wicklow uplands area until May - the worst snows of the twentieth century.

Powerscourt Estate had a number of gate lodges, occupied by tenants who would collect money from paying visitors and they were paid on a commission basis. Paddock Lodge was the entrance to the deer park and waterfall from the Old Long Hill Road, and visitors passed through two gates at this entrance, the second one being eight foot high with Powerscourt Estate stamped onto the gate. As well as visiting the waterfall, some visitors were here to fish. One of the Paddock Ponds was stocked with fish, mainly perch, and a daily licence to fish could be purchased at the lodge.

Paddock Lodge was occupied by 'Lofty' Buckley in the 1900's and then by his son Bob, who was married to Henry's aunt. In 1946 Henry's father Sam took over the lodge and occupied it for twenty years, bringing up his family here. The above photo shows the lodge and the old wall that used to border the entire deer park which is now largely gone. The Forestry bought some of the land surrounding the ponds from Powerscourt in 1952. Local farmers were paid a pound a day to plant trees, working from dawn to dusk and the forestry was fenced in, about 12/14 feet from the original wall.

This photo shows Henry and his cousin at the front of the lodge in the 1950's. The house had three rooms and a lean-to to the rear of the house and was lacking in what we call "mod cons". Lighting was provided by tilly lamp or candles and "running water" was provided by a nearby stream. Timing of collection of water was important as the neighbour's cattle were driven across the stream at 9.30 in the morning and returned at 5.30 in the evening and you could not draw water from the stream for an hour after their journey, in case of dung in the water!

Henry's father opened the sluice gates leading down to the deer park every morning and closed them every evening as part of his duties in the lodge. He also held a hackney licence and owned a Ford Prefect - Reg no IP3930. At a time when few people had a car, and the nearest bus service was three miles away, he was kept busy. Regular jobs included bringing local greyhounds to Shelbourne Park to race, bringing people to weddings and on occasion, removing the back seats and transporting calves!

As the above photographs show, the walks on either side of the ponds were popular places. Earls Drive and Ladies Drive had been put in by the Wingfield family in the 1860's creating carraige drives that made the most of the views over the waterfall which was a major tourist attraction. Down in the deer park, David Weir was in charge of the sawmill where Mrs Gregg was the cashier. Powerscourt's gamekeeper Mr Davis lived in a house in the middle of the deer park, where the tearooms are today. Teas could be purchased in the tearooms and guesthouse run by Jimmy Jeffers in a house called Valclusa, beside the entrance to the deer park, today a private house.

This wonderful photo shows two swimmers enjoying a dip in the pond with the boathouse in the background, dating from the 1950s. While the ponds were not very deep, they provided an opportunity to swim at a time when recreation was far more simple. The Wingfield family kept a rowing boat here and could entertain their guests with a trip around the ponds.

The last rowing boat here sank into the lake and was only revealed when Hurricane Charlie emptied the ponds in 1986. The boat house can still be seen today and visitors can admire it's brick vaulted roof, though there is a large tree growing out of it today! The first photograph in the blog shows the interior today.

In 1966, Mr Bell, the farm steward for Powerscourt, approached Sam Pinkerton to see if he would be interested in moving from Paddock Lodge down to the Waterfall Lodge. This was a step up in terms of accommodation - this lodge had electricity and an upstairs and far more visitors to collect money from. The family were happy to make this move and lived here for many years.

The final two photographs were taken by someone who lived locally and they date from the early 1980's, when the lakes were still filled with water. It is interesting to see how different the surroundings seem with the trees planted in the 1950's now thirty years old.

My thanks to Henry Pinkerton and to Neill Agnew for the photographs and memories of a local and much loved landmark.


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