Summary

Site is open to the public. Opening may be limited, please check Visitor Information for any restrictions.

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Brief description of site

St. Donat's is the rare survival of a complete, large-scale Tudor terraced garden, attached to a medieval castle.

Brief history of site

The castle was partly restored and added to in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.

Location information:

Address: St Donat's Castle, CF61 1WF

Locality: Vale of Glamorgan

Local Authorities:

The Vale of Glamorgan; St. Donats

Historical County: Glamorgan

OS Landranger Map Sheet Number: 170 Grid Ref: SS934680
Latitude: 51.401 Longitude: -3.53381

Visitor facilities

Opening contact details:

The castle is now an independent school but there are guided tours between mid and late August.

Key information:

Form of site: terraced garden

Purpose of site: ornamental garden

Context or principal building: education

Site Style : formal

Site first created: 1550 to 1599

Main period of development: 16th century

Survival: Part: standing remains

Site Size (Hectares): 90

Description

The size, complexity, state of preservation and rarity make these gardens of outstanding value. Two walled deer parks attached to the castle also remain and an unusual tower stands in the wooded grounds. Randolph Hearst's occupation in the 1920s and 1930s gave the castle a renewed opulence that has in part survived to this day.

To the south of the castle is the site of the main Tudor gardens. This consists of five terraces, each with stone walls and steps, descending 40 metres from the castle to the sea. The two top terraces mainly consist of lawned areas. The third is an Edwardian re-creation of a Tudor garden. The lower terraces, which are sited side by side, are the Rose Garden to the east and the Blue Garden to the west. These have Edwardian layouts set within the Tudor structure.

There are other areas of the garden which were part of the Tudor layout. There are two long parallel grass terraces to the west of the castle which are thought to date to the time of Sir Edward Stradling. There are also the remains of a watch tower, probably of 15th century date, which was a feature of the landscape in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Hilary Thomas describes the gardens as follows:

‘In scale, splendour and sophistication the gardens at St. Donats were rivalled in South Wales only by those at Raglan in Monmouthshire. Sir Edward's travels in Italy and his familiarity with classical architecture and literature clearly influenced his overall concept for the gardens at St. Donats, a concept, which, when realised, must have mightily impressed all visitors to the castle. Poets, among them Thomas Leyshon and Sir John Stradling, were inspired to compose long poems, full of classical and allegorical allusions.....Of particular interest in these poems are the references to plants cultivated in Sir Edward's gardens, plants such as the ‘juicy vine' (fig tree?) mentioned by John Stradling, and the ‘sweet fruits of the vines, nards (spike lavender), amomum (winter cherry), roses and beautiful lilies' praised by Thomas Leyshon...Essentially Italianate in inspiration and design Sir Edward's garden...may have contained marble and polished stones brought from Italy.....'

Site designation(s)

CADW Register of Landscapes Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in Wales Grade I Reference PGW(Gm)30(GLA)

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade I Reference St Donat's Castle

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade I Reference parish church

Scheduled Ancient Monument Reference Medieval cross in churchyard (Gm 361)

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference East Lodge

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference NE outer forecourt wall and pt NW boundary wall

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference staff house adjacent to outer NE forecourt wall

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference SW outer forecourt walls of castle

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference former coach house

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference former forecourt stables

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference tithe barn

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference outbuilding on SE side of Sir Val Duncan Memorial Garden

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference walls & steps of gdns, terraces, summer hses & cottages

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference cottage against SE churchyard wall

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference house at NE end of NW range of Cavalry Barracks

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference sea walls and towers

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference watchtower

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference Old Rectory

CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade II Reference North Lodge

Principal building:

castle Created 1150 to 1930

The first phase of the castle was constructed in the late-12th century, with additions and modifications throughout its history.

Designation status: CADW Register of Listed Buildings in Wales Grade I

External web site link: http://www.stdonats.com/

External web site link: http://www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/enjoying/visit_the_vale/places_to_go/historic/castles/st_donats.aspx

External web site link: http://parksandgardensuk.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/what-god-would-have-built-if-he-had-the-money/

History

The site, in a commanding position above a steep-sided valley, has been continuously occupied since the 12th century. The house was occupied by the Stradling family from 1289 until the 1730s. A spectacular Tudor garden was created by Sir Edward Stradling (1529-1609) in the late-16th century, many features of which are still surviving.

The last of the Stradling occupiers, Sir Thomas, died in 1738, after which time the castle was neglected. Owners of the late-19th and early-20th centuries made some improvements and restoration. Extensive, and not always sensitive changes were made by William Randolph Hearst between 1925 and 1937, at which date the house was put up for sale and remained unsold until 1960. The property has been the site of Atlantic College since 1962.

Features

pond

Mill pond.

stable block

Feature created: 1550 to 1650

'The Cavalry Barracks', probably stables.

park wall

Feature created: Before 1536

There are two deer parks, enclosed by rubble stone walls.

kitchen garden

Walled kitchen garden.

garden terrace

There are five terraces.

pavilion

Italianate pavilion.

rose garden

Feature created: 1901 to 1910

religious, ritual and funerary features

Pet cemetery.

tower

Feature created: 1400 to 1499

There are also the remains of a watch tower, probably of 15th century date, which was a feature of the landscape in the 16th and 17th centuries.

planting

Feature created: 1901 to 1910

Blue Garden.

References

Organisations associated with this site

Welsh Historic Gardens Trust

Cadw Role: Designating Authority

Sources of information

Historic Gardens of the Vale of Glamorgan

Hilary M. Thomas Historic Gardens of the Vale of Glamorgan (Welsh Historic Gardens Trust, 2007) 192

New gardens at St. Donat's

New gardens at St. Donat's

Plan of St. Donat's Estate showing tenants' lands

Plan of St. Donat's Estate showing tenants' lands (1818)

Register of Landscapes, Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in Wales: Glamorgan

CADW, Register of Landscapes, Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in Wales: Glamorgan (Cardiff: CADW, 2000) 278

St. Donat's estate, property of J.W.N. Carne 1862, surveyor Wm. J. Rees

Rees, W.J., 'St. Donat's estate, property of J.W.N. Carne 1862, surveyor Wm. J. Rees' (1862)

The Antiquities of England and Wales

Grose, F., The Antiquities of England and Wales (London: printed for S. Hooper, 1786)

The Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan

Newman, J., The Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan (London: Penguin, 1995) 552-7

Images

  • St Donat's castle

    St Donat's castle

  • St Donat's castle, the 16th century grass walk

    St Donat's castle, the 16th century grass walk

  • St Donat's Castle, the Tudor garden

    St Donat's Castle, the Tudor garden

  • St Donat's Castle, the rose garden

    St Donat's Castle, the rose garden

  • St Donat's Castle, inner courtyard and gateway

    St Donat's Castle, inner courtyard and gateway

  • St Donat's Castle and Church

    St Donat's Castle and Church

  • St Donat's Castle

    St Donat's Castle

  • St Donat's Castle, Tudor Garden

    St Donat's Castle, Tudor Garden

  • St Donat's Castle, view from Mansell Tower

    St Donat's Castle, view from Mansell Tower