Sapling from Bishop Hervey’s garden to be planted at Downhill

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A very special sapling, grown by the man who built Mussenden Temple, will be planted at Downhill’s Lion’s Gate on June 15.

Frederick Augustus Hervey (1730 -1803) was appointed Bishop of Derry in 1768 and inherited the title 4th Earl of Bristol in 1779.

‘The Earl Bishop’, as he was affectionately known, built Mussenden Temple and Downhill House. As Bishop of Derry his palace was in Bishop Street in Londonderry and he created a deer park outside the city’s walls, where Lumen Christi College is now located.

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Here, he built his casina, which became his summer house. The Bishop planted an avenue of Spanish Chestnut trees from his palace to the summer house with seeds brought by him from Italy to Derry.

This sapling is to be planted out at the Lion's Gate Downhill at 11am on Wednesday 12th June and will be under the care of the National Trust. Credit Google MapsThis sapling is to be planted out at the Lion's Gate Downhill at 11am on Wednesday 12th June and will be under the care of the National Trust. Credit Google Maps
This sapling is to be planted out at the Lion's Gate Downhill at 11am on Wednesday 12th June and will be under the care of the National Trust. Credit Google Maps

Only one of these trees survives in a sheltered location opposite what was formerly the Junior Study and Library at Lumen Christi. On a visit to the college in 2022, a founder member of the Hervey Heritage Society, Ken McCormack, picked up a nut that had fallen from the remaining tree.

He gave it to another member of the Society, Charlie Morrison, who produced a unique sapling with loving care and attention. This specimen has been transferred to Downhill Demesne, the Bishop’s country residence, where tree expert Una Quinn was responsible for its welfare.

The sapling will be planted in the Walled Garden in the Downhill Demesne on Wednesday, June 12 at 11 am. In the fullness of time, it promises to be one of the most famous trees in Ireland and will be known as the Lumen Christi Tree.

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