In 1835, brothers Arthur and Benjamin Lee Guinness, the grandsons of Arthur Guinness, the famous founder of St. James Gate Brewery, purchased this house and 52 acres from John Venables Vernon of Clontarf Castle.
In 1837, Benjamin Lee Guinness renamed the estate St Anne’s, inspired by an ancient holy well known as St. Anne’s Well. He also constructed numerous follies throughout St Anne’s:
In 1871, Benjamin Lee Guinness’ eldest son Arthur Guinness (later Lord Ardilaun), married Olive Ardilaun, a descendant of the Whites of Bantry.
The Ardilauns made significant changes to the house and Park at St Anne’s. The Guinness estate increased in proportion to their wealth, with over 200 hectares added. Lord Ardilaun doubled the area of the, house to the designs of James Franklin Fuller.
After 1880, Lord Ardilaun began extensive planting and landscaping of the demesne.
The main drive was extended to three kilometres in length. He planted the shelter belts of evergreen oak, also known as “Holm Oak” to give shelter to their new home from the cold easterly winds which blow into the Park from the Bull Island.
In 1925, Lady Ardilaun died and left the estate to her husband’s nephew, the Rt. Rev. Benjamin Plunket, Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath.In 1932 Bishop Plunkett decided that he could not maintain such a large estate and sold it to Dublin Corporation.
He only retained Sybil Hill (now St. Paul’s College) as a private residence with 30 acres(120,000 m²) of parkland. The grounds of Sybil Hill later became the site of St. Paul’s College, Raheny.
In November 1936, the City Manager, John B. Keane, decided to procure St. Anne’s for Dublin City Council and two years later a compulsory purchase order for £62,000 was completed.
Soon after its acquisition, St Anne s was ploughed to provide allotments for the supply of crops during the war years. Tragically, St. Anne’s house was gutted by a fire on Christmas Eve, 1943. The Fire Brigade poured water on the mansion almost continuously for three days.
A second fire occurred on 27th December 1943. The main residence of St. Anne’s, “The Mansion”, was gutted by a fire while being used as a store by the Local Defence Force and the ruins were demolished in 1968.
The estate was reduced to 107 hectares after the construction of new houses on the north side in the 1950s.
The idea of a Rose Garden was promoted by the Clontarf Horticultural Society in the early 1970s and the late Jim Shannon, Parks Superintendent.
It was officially opened in July 1975 and received the Bord Failte Civic Award in 1980. The 8-hectare oval main Rose’ Garden has over 25,000 rose plants grouped according to type – hybrid teas, floribundas, patios, ground covers, climbers, shrub and old cultivars with a special section reserved for them.
Rose breeders from around the world are invited to submit seedling roses for trial over an eighteen- month period.
The roses are assessed over the period by a panel of judges consisting of Rosarians, Horticulturists and other suitable qualified persons.
The final judging which takes place on the first day of the Rose Festival is carried out by a panel of lnternational Rose Experts .
P.S. Although as from 2012 the Rose Trials will sadly no longer be held in Dublin, but in Belfast, The Rose Gardens in the St. Ann’s Park are still worth a visit.
One of the prize roses grown in the Park is The Malmaison Rose “Souvenir de St.Anne’s”. This rose was cultivated by Andrew Campbell, who served with the Guinness family for some 30 years as Head Gardener. ”Souvenir de St.Anne’s” rose grows near the eastern entrance to the Rose Garden.
Today, the Parks and Landscape Services Division manage St Anne’s Park as a regional Park. The Park includes the Dublin City Central Nursery, which produces trees, shrubs and bedding plants for the City’s parks and open spaces and a Green Waste recycling facility.
Located off the main avenue is the Garden of Miniature Roses, completed in 1986. ln 1988, an Arboretum was planted to commemorate the Dublin Millennium.
The re-development of the Red Stables complex as an arts and crafts centre was completed in 2006 this includes a number of artist studios and several artists residence exhibition centre and Tir na nÓg Cafe and Restaurant .
A Farmers Market takes place in the Courtyard in the Red Stables on Saturdays from 9.00am to 5.00pm.