Botanists & Agriculturists

Charles I (1737-1818)

was the Creator of Hamwood purchasing the land and building the house and yards within , having moved south from Co.Down to Mount Venus in the Dublin Mountains to be closer to the thriving city of the day. As far as history relates Charles I also laid out the design for the walled garden and it is likely that he added to existing stone walls that would have been in place when it was part of Ballymacoll – The stud next door which bred the legendary Arkle. In fact there is an old dwelling with cobbled floor in the farmyard which was apparently inhabited before Hamwood was constructed-the oldest dwelling on the estate.

There are plans  showing the layout of the walled garden and surrounding pathways / tracks depicted on a sketch by Joseph O’Brien the surveyor at the time in 1803.

He planted many of the trees in the Estate from thinnings from the Carton Estate, which he managed for the Duke of Leinster. Charles I bought the land from James Hamilton of Ballymacoll (no relation) and completed the building of the main house in 1777. He also built the Gate Lodge and Stable Block, and planted out many of the trees still standing here today.

Charles 11 (1772-1857)

Carried on extensive work at Hamwood with his wife Caroline adding on the side wings and Pavilions at either end , and further designing the walled garden and the front and rear lawn areas. Caroline insisted on many more trees being planted to help create shelter for the strong winds particularly coming from the cold East. Remembering that when she arrived at Hamwood in early 1800’s it was a cold and  bleak situation and very exposed being 300 feet above sea level. It may not sound particularly high but in relatively flat Leinster there was nothing between the House and the East coast!

Caroline and her husband were greatly involved in the interior design of the house , the furnishings , artwork and ornaments. They formed the library comprising of the extensive literature available at the time , not limited to Irish and English but international particularly French and German .

Charles 111 (1802-1880)

There is more known about Charles III’s accomplishments as he was both an avid photographer and also a proficient amateur artist, so there are pictorial records of the Gardens and the people connected from about the mid 1800’s. The first photography taking place in Ireland in about 1840. He was married to Letitia Armstrong of Mount Heaton Co.Offaly .  Letitia  was an accomplished landscape artist, copying the works of the likes of Salvator Rosa with great effect. She and her husband CWH would spend holidays together painting in such beautiful landscapes such as the Swiss Alps , and the Cotes d’Azur as well as the Scottish Highlands and wilder parts of Ireland. They were both highly respected amateur artists.

Charles III or Charles William as he was called, was a highly astute Agriculturalist and Botanist earning his reputation known as ‘The Counsellor’. He was involved with the creation of Agricultural Societies throughout the country to educate farmers in new techniques in Agriculture.

He had a keen interest in Agriculture and was greatly  involved in the Royal Dublin Society. He was particularly concerned about the state of Agriculture in the country prior to the Famine of 1845 and he urged the Repeal MP William Smith O’Brien to set up agricultural societies and colleges throughout Ireland to instruct farmers in modern methods. He corresponded frequently with Prime Minister William Gladstone about the terrible conditions caused by the potato blight and deplored the lack of assistance given. Although the effects were not nearly so bad in Leinster, soup kitchens were available to those who needed it, one being at Hamwood.

One of Charles William’s passions was painting and he toured extensively, visiting Scotland and France, where on one occasion he was arrested by the French whilst painting a warship in Antibes harbour. Presumably he convinced them he was simply an artist and no spy and was released!

At Hamwood he planted the Pine Walk ca 1860, at a time when trees were becoming available from across the globe particularly from North America and the Himalayas. A Monterey Pine still stands among various Cedars, Sequoia and large Pines lining this handsome Arboretum.

Charles Robert Hamilton

Charles Robert IV 1846-1913

Married Louise Brooke in 1874 who had 10 children, of whom 2 boys died in infancy, one being the first born and heir. The two chestnut trees in the Lawn field seen from the Trail were planted in their memory. There were 6 daughters among whom were the exceptional artists Letitia and Eva, and of the boys Gerald Charles the future heir, and Freddie.
Charles Robert was educated at home by a governess and at the age of 17 he went to Trinity to study law. He was a member of the Kildare Street Club and was passionate about the garden at Hamwood, where he transformed the Walled Garden, and in order to create an impact he employed a head gardener from Kew Gardens in London. He gained a great deal of help from his large family, particularly Connie (Constance), who took up landscaping professionally.
Charles Robert travelled with his wife to the continent frequently and at times further afield to visit relations in Canada near Montreal. He corresponded with Kew Gardens in London and in particular with Sir Frederick Moore at The Royal Botanical Gardens Glasnevin. Sir Frederick was a Keeper of Glasnevin from 1879-1922. Charles IV and F.W. Moore became well known to each other and traded extensively in exotic and rare plants and trees discovered by the ‘Plant hunters’ of the day.
Both men however had an instinctive practicality about their work ensuring a plant or tree was planted with every care taken over aspect and soil conditions etc, but at the same time being prepared to grow ambitious types from all over the world not quite knowing how they would fare in the Irish climate. On the whole Charles IV was quite successful. The exceptionally tall Trachycarpus Fortunei standing at the edge of the Zen Garden is tribute to his expertise.
In his time there were up to 8 or 10 men working at Hamwood, half of whom worked in the gardens. At that time there were tall beech and yew hedges surrounding the lawns which were immaculately clipped by hand to form ‘battlements’. These can be seen in watercolours by Letitia around 1900. These hedges offered further protection for the roses and flowers grown within from the fierce winds that are merciless at blooming time. There were also at least six greenhouses in full operation at the time. These were heated all year round from a coal fired boiler in the walled garden which pumped hot water through a piped system and ensured temperatures were kept reasonably constant to achieve the best growth.

The greenhouses produced the following :-
Picked flowers – A great assortment of lilies and such used for floral displays in the house.
Vines – Producing grapes for the household.
Peaches and nectarines – Tasting better than anything available in supermarkets these days.
Runner beans, peas .
Tomatoes – The smell of ripening tomatoes on the vine is one never forgotten.
Sweet peas, in abundance. Attracting all sorts of insect life and helping pollination.

The area now given over to being a paddock for sheep, horses and the occasional donkey, was formerly a horticultural garden producing soft fruits, some of which were as follows:-


There was in addition a large orchard (several acres) where mainly apple trees were grown, but also plums, pears and cherries, in abundance.
Every week a cartload of fruit and vegetables would go to the market in Dublin – fresh, organic produce.

In part of the walled garden grew Hazel nut trees and walnuts in the orchard. We are currently looking into growing almond trees at Hamwood Gardens. Watch this space!

Charles IV was probably the most influential of all generations in creating an abundant, colourful and exotic garden here at Hamwood.

The reasons for this are probably due to
a) his own persona. An intelligent (trained as a lawyer), tough, hard working character with a great vision and ideas.
b) it was a time of prosperity and he was affluent enough to be able to fulfil his plans.
c) he had a good and enthusiastic number of staff as well as an interested and hands on family, all of whom did their bit. It is fortunate that we have watercolours of the Gardens painted by Letitia Hamilton around this time giving a pictorial insight into the dramatic colour schemes created. They are truly exceptional.
d) his communication and relationships with key individuals such as F.W.Moore and of course a father in CWH who had such vast knowledge in the science of Horticulture and Agriculture.

Charles V

Charles Francis took over just before the outbreak of WW1. The Great Depression followed, with the Economic War between Britain and Ireland in 1932 creating untold misery for the population. Charles V was forced to sell off large acreages of land as punitive taxes were imposed on landowners. In addition the country had undergone Civil War and ended British rule, as well as British organisation, free trade and a large population with whom to trade with.

Hence workers had to be laid off increasing the state of unemployment which continued for decades and caused the demise of such places as Hamwood. Without workers there is little that can be done in a large garden enterprise. Charles V adapted, forced to ‘let go’ of much of the garden, woodland and the myriad of outbuildings, greenhouses and stables that formed such an estate.

Charles V had carried on the family role of being the advisor to the Duke of Leinster in the form of Land Agent, but this was not well remunerated and hardly helped with the running of Hamwood. He had sadly lost his wife Violet in 1947 and remarried some years later to Rosamund Bauer who was formidable in revitalising the farm and introducing a new dairy herd.

During this period of economic stagnation little was achievable for the gardens and it was a matter of ‘making do’ and managing as best one could.

Charles VI

Charles VI, or the Major (from his time in the Indian army) as he was generally referred, took over in 1962, when Ireland was undergoing a brief period of prosperity. He started with 3 men to help work on the farm and gardens, one being a retired chauffeur who subsequently died and was never replaced. Despite great efforts from him and his wife Anne the gardens continued to decline. The glass roofs of the greenhouses were constantly battered by ferocious storms , even despite the shelter of the walled garden, and gradually more and more of the glass crashed to the floor. Eventually they became irreparable and in the 70’s the diggers moved in. They were shoved up into a giant bank, which thankfully has now been cleaned away after much sifting through of glass, brick, metal, soil and whole trees growing out of it!!

The Major planted many of the shrubs and ornamental trees you see here today. He had a particular penchant for Maples, Magnolias and Mallow. It sounds like he might have been stuck on the letter M of the index in a horticultural book.. but no, in truth it was due to his fondness of these particular plants. Maples probably due to his mother originating from Canada, Magnolias for their ability to grow well at Hamwood and their beauty, and the Mallow or Hibiscus from India where he spent  some of the best years 1938-1947 and influenced him to grow many other trees and shrubs he would have seen in the Himalayas and around Gilgit where he was stationed for much of his time there.

The Major also spent much of the 60’s and 70’s in West Cork and many of the Irises and such trees as the Chilean Firebush (Embothrium) would have been seen down there around Sheep’s Head peninsular where he enjoyed the beach side property of Ahakista House.

Much of the planting was done by dividing bulbs, digging up saplings and transplanting them, and grafting and splicing young trees.

Charles VI was particularly responsible for replanting much of the Pine Walk with Azaleas, Maples, Camelias and Magnolias adding wonderful colour to the beautiful Arboretum created by previous generations, particularly CWH.


At the time of the Major the farm produced beef cattle and there was plenty of farmyard manure available which was used effectively to keep the soil fertile and in good condition.

Earthworms were abundant at the time and as a result  many more song birds thrived here in the gardens. Today there is an abundance of carrion birds (eg grey crows and Magpies), and large birds of prey in comparison. We hope to increase the songbirds and insect life that was enjoyed here during the time up to the 60’s.

We also aim to build up the fertility here and create our own compost for which large compost bins have been built, so hopefully in time there will be a difference. We also intend to create a nursery for saplings of the multitude of trees grown here so they can be transplanted in properly arranged locations, perhaps in hedgerows etc.

Charles VI was particularly responsible for replanting much of the Pine Walk with Azaleas, Maples, Camelias and Magnolias adding wonderful colour to the beautiful Arboretum created by previous generations, particularly CWH.

We hope that despite the lack of funding these special gardens continue to flourish and give plenty of enjoyment to visitors from all over the world.

See Artists & Writers