Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes
The character and appearance of the modern landscape of Northern Ireland owes much to ornamental parks and gardens associated with our country houses, institutions and public parks. For over three centuries they have been an important feature of the countryside. Many are distinguished by their carefully composed designs of trees, meadow and water, perhaps as a setting for a building; some boast a valuable collection of trees, shrubs or plants; others may provide a significant historic record, either of a particular era or showing how the design has changed over the centuries. Aside from their contribution to the quality and character of our local landscape, those that are open to the public provide an important recreational resource. However, it is a fragile heritage, for unlike other works of art, these gardens and designed landscapes are living, growing and evolving. As such they need careful management.
View a brief history of gardens and designed landscapes in Ireland.
Recording our Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes
The Northern Ireland Heritage Gardens Archive is held by us and contains a comprehensive record for over 700 historic parks, gardens and demesnes. Work on this archive was initiated by the NI Heritage Gardens Committee with information gathered through site inspection, and map and documentary research. The records continue to be added to. The Heritage Gardens Inventory (.PDF 597Kb) provides a list of the sites contained in the archive, with basic details. Further information can be accessed by contacting us.
Protecting our Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes
An important milestone in the protection of historic parks, gardens and demesnes throughout Europe came with the agreement by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) of the Florence Charter in 1981. This emphasised the need for each nation to identify, list and protect their historic parks, gardens and demesnes.
The Register of Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes (.PDF 746Kb) has been established to identify those sites that can be considered of exceptional importance within Northern Ireland. Inclusion is based upon a clear set of criteria, as listed in the Register, and 154 sites have been selected. This is currently under revision as part of the development of the current Area Plans and as our appreciation and knowledge of our landscape heritage improves further sites may well be added.
A further 150 sites have been identified as having a high level of interest and are included as an appendix to the main Register as designated 'Supplementary' sites.
The boundaries of Registered Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes have been established with the help of definitions contained in Article Four the Florence Charter. We are guided by the site’s plan, its topography, its structural and decorative elements, its water features, and vegetation.
Inclusion in the Register affords these sites protection through Planning Policy Statement 6 (PPS6) which specifies that historic parks and gardens included within the register should be considered in the determination of planning consent. This allows Built Heritage to offer advice and make recommendations for the protection of sites through the planning consultation process. This is further reinforced when a park or garden forms the setting of a building that has been listed for protection under the Planning (NI) Order 1991.
Conserving our Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes
We work closely with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to conserve Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes. Under the Northern Ireland Countryside Management Scheme these sites are eligible for contributions towards tree maintenance and replanting of stands or shelterbelts. We can offer advice to participants in the scheme through DARD, to ensure that suitable species and historically appropriate designs are used.
This has proved to be a popular option for landowners who are keen to conserve the designed landscapes which, in many instances, have taken decades or even hundreds of years to develop.
We also work with Forest Service through their Woodland Grant Scheme to ensure appropriate planting within Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes.