Over Christmas I came across an illustrated map that suggested the Deerpark in Faithlegg is dating from the time of the Norman manor, specifically from the 14-15th Century. I have to say I was surprised at this and in the last few weeks I have been up there more and more, and thinking about the implications. The source for this was the Atlas of Irish Rural Landscape. And it lists Deerparks from around the country, of which Waterford can claim only a handful, see map below.
|The Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape, p 198
Now the Atlas has no further details and also could be wrong. I had always believed it was part of the Demesne constructed by Cornelius Bolton Jnr in 1783 at the time that Faithlegg House was constructed. At that time extensive planting and development occurred in the parish, noted for example by Arthur Young in his ” A Tour in Ireland” and who I have mentioned before and indeed, will again.
Deerparks were a feature added over many centuries in Ireland, but started initially with the Normans. They were primarily a source of food, along with other features around the manor like rabbit warrens, dovecotes and fish ponds. The Deerparks were generally sited in an outlying position on the manor, but no further than a mile away. They were mostly earthen embankments with an internal fosse topped with a timber paling fence but stone was used where it was available – the situation in the area of Faithlegg (or possibly the walls were built at a later stage by the Boltons?). Although some used them for supplying animals for the sport of hunting, it was generally for food, and apparently the keeper could supply venison to those favoured by the lord of the manor on presentation of permission slips. Venison was a meat for special occasions and their was prestige attached to its eating.
The sites were no more that a few acres and were generally on poorer land, with grass, scrub and some trees. The Normans introduced fallow deer to Ireland, in particular for the parks, as they could endure indifferent land and were good breeders. In time the deerparks could be turned to pasture for dairy, beef herds or horsebreeding, and many disappeared in the creation of landscape parks in the Eighteenth century – which indeed was the style under which Faithlegg House was created.
|one of the better stretches of the wall, bedecked with moss and lichens
|Entrance pillar on the Old Road
|South west corner on Old Road
This new information suggests that the Deerpark name, and the remaining walls could possibly be as old as Faithlegg Church, making them the oldest built structures existing in the area. This begs a question, what can we as a community could do to investigate the provenance of the site and highlight and preserve such a potentially important historic feature.
|example of the size of falling trees and damage caused
The Deerpark is now owned by Coillte, the state forestry organisation. Last year 4 acres were put on the market but the sale did not go through and the land has since been replanted. But the Deerpark and Minaun is now vastly changed and under threat. Previous planting is now collapsing which is placing significant strain on the walls. Trees and other vegetation growing adjacent to the walls are also encroaching and undermining the walls
|The North West corner, the fosse now provides a walkway
Ed; Aalen FHA et al. Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape. 2003. Cork University Press, Cork