Living here: Dr Matthew Jebb's 50 acre National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin

‘It’s an extraordinary location because you’re living in the countryside in the middle of a city, only a stone’s throw from O’Connell Street’

Dr Matthew Jebb, Director of the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, lives with his family in the 18th. c house traditionally reserved for the gardens’ director. Video: Daniel O' Connor

 

‘We’ve been living here three-and-a -half years and it’s very, very nice. It’s an extraordinary location because you’re living in the countryside in the middle of a city, only a stone’s throw from O’Connell Street. One of the things you’re conscious of, living here, is that this is a tiny village. Staff and the regulars who come in make a nice community life.

“In the mid-19th century there were only a handful of big houses and green fields around here. This house is one of the last big houses left in the area. It was built in 1740 by Thomas Tickell on a hill that would have looked down into the Tolka valley – filled in now with houses and roads but all water and meadowlands then.

“Tickell was secretary to the Lords Justices of Ireland, so would have ridden due south to work in the Kings Inns. He actually survived only a short while in the house. It’s a lovely, quiet house with a happy atmosphere and many reiterations in its lifetime. In the 19th century it was added to at least twice; we’ve found four front doors.

“When the Dublin Society set up the gardens in 1795, they started by buying the original Tickell estate. Within the Gardens we’ve a lovely avenue of yew trees and have seen, by the cutting of limbs, that they’re at least 160 years old. They run along the ridge of a hill just before it drops in the valley and represent our oldest trees.


Connections
“There was a watermill, demolished in 1805, and it too is now part of the gardens. Astonishingly, the fellow running the mill was one John Jebb. He’s a relative; I’ll be looking into him further.

“There are only a handful of Jebbs in Britain and Ireland and it appears we’re all related. A Henry Jebb is buried up the road in St Mobhi Church, a little Church of Ireland hidden behind the Met Office. There’s something pleasing about these connections that makes you feel more at home.

“There is a real sensation of being in the countryside here, surrounded by nearly 50 acres of beautiful landscape and flower-rich gardens.

“ There’s something delightfully old fashioned about it too, with lots of daffodils out now. Everything’s plumping up, getting ready for spring. Blue-sky days make you really thankful.

“When you walk around the gardens you become very familiar with them. My job’s just 20 yards away and the time I save on commuting I spend looking at the gardens. Our nearest neighbour is Glasnevin Cemetery and our northern boundary is the Tolka River.

“My children hugely like living here; being so close to town is a boon to any teenager. My wife enjoys it enormously and is becoming more and more intrigued by it all.


Vegetable garden
“This house is very private, in its way. It was surrounded on three sides by a 15ft-high beech hedge when we moved in but I had it cut back to about 9ft. It hadn’t been cut for 40 years and what’s extraordinary is how much was revealed.

“You now see two completely different faces of the house; the south-facing original 18th-century red-brick villa and the Victorian addition, rendered in concrete and with fantastic arched windows. We get more light and views – and people can see the house again.

“I’ve made a little vegetable garden for the house and in summer when I’m working people stop and talk. It’s like old countryside life, chatting over the gate or wall. That’s a part of life we’ve lost, and it’s a pity.”


In conversation with Rose Doyle

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