Festina Lente found its home in The Walled Victorian Gardens in the lands of Old Connaught House in 1996. Founded by Mary Brophy in 1988 her aim was to support those most at risk of social and economic exclusion.
Our current home within the beautiful surrounds of The Victorian Walled Garden at Festina Lente dates back to the 1780’s when it was built as part of the Old Connaught House Estate. The old garden walls that you see today are an original feature.
The estate was most associated with the Plunket family who lived there from 1807 to 1946. It is the Plunket family motto “Festina Lente” which means ‘hasten slowly’ that has provided our charity with its present name.
It was Archbishop William Conyngham Plunket, Fourth Baron Plunket of Newtown, who in 1871 began remodelling the interior of the walled gardens to its present design. The pool garden was created at that time, enclosed on both sides by clipped yew hedges. The fountain was also added on the central axis path. The gardens would have provided for the household throughout the year, producing fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers.
In 1946 the estate was taken over by the Christian Brothers who set up their senior novitiate school Coláiste Chiaráin at Old Connaught House. This was a secondary school to prepare novitiates to be formally admitted to religious life. As well as teaching at the school, there were also Brothers who looked after the kitchens, the farm and the kitchen garden. They farmed cattle, chicken and pigs and also sold vegetables, apples, pears and plums to the local community. Many of these old apple and pear trees can still be seen along the garden walls and still produce delicious fruit.
When the Christian Brothers vacated Old Connaught in 1972, the lands were broken up and some sold off. The walled gardens and cow yard were locked up and the garden became overgrown, with grass and weeds four feet high and the yew hedges over 30 feet tall.
In 1996, Mr James Carroll leased the Victorian Walled Gardens and stable-yard of Old Connaught House to our non-profit foundation. It was then that we became Festina Lente.
With Assistance from EU Horizon Funding, and piloting employment projects for people with disabilities, Festina Lente began the restoration of the walled gardens. The garden was cleared with dedication and commitment by our team of employees, together with help of a couple of pigs who did their fair share of munching through the overgrown grasses! New paths were laid on the lines of the old ones, parts of the wall were restored, a new circular pond with a fountain was built and the pools in the pool garden were remade.
As you can see from the old photos, the Walled Victorian Garden today looks strikingly similar to its former design.
Festina Lente has further ambitions to continue to extend our reach supporting people to achieve their personal best through the natural world of horses, horticulture and community so beautifully facilitated within the Walled Gardens and surrounding lands.See the restored Victorian Walled Garden here