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Prior to 1820 the site had been a farm. In 1820 the farm was purchased by Richard Thomas Dixie who built a modest two storey country house with a domestic wing. Within the grounds of the house was a lodge, a stable block and courtyard, a walled garden which included a belvedere located at its south-west corner, driveways, pleasure gardens and ha-ha, a pond and woodland. Neither the name of the original architect nor that of the landscape gardener responsible for laying out the grounds are known.

In 1830/31 Dixie, who emigrated to Canada and died in 1834, attempted to sell the property apparently without success. A detailed survey of the property was undertaken at this time. The property was again offered for sale by Dixie's executors in 1837, at which time it is known to have been let out to William Miller Esq for £155 per annum, but it was not eventually sold until 1839, when it was purchased by Major General Sir James Cockburn, Paymaster and Inspector-General of the Royal Marines, who later became High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire. It is not known whether Sir James ever lived at Gellideg but it is known that his agent was George Goode, a prominent Carmarthen auctioneer, land and estate agent.

In 1849 the estate was purchased by Richard Jennings, a descendant of whom still owns the property. With the opening of the South Wales Railway to Carmarthen in 1851 the region became easily accessible from London, where the Jennings' main residence was located and in 1852 he commissioned the architect William Wesley Jenkins to build a larger mansion around the existing structure. This included an Italianate tower in the Campanile style and a conservatory. Richard Jennings became High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1859. Further extensions to the mansion and a new conservatory were added between 1880 and 1927. A farmhouse and a cart shed, which still survive were built near the stables; the exact date of these is undetermined but is certainly before 1890; the 1871 census specifically names Gellideg Farm separate from the house. A cottage, which included a large garden, was also built adjacent the south-east corner of the walled garden probably around the same time.

On the death of Richard Jennings in 1891 the property passed to his eldest son Richard Edward Jennings and upon Richard Edward's death in 1908 to his eldest son Lt Col Edward Charles Jennings.

It is known that the mansion was vacated by Lt Col Edward Jennings around 1946 up to which time aerial photographs show that the estate had been kept in good order. The walled garden had been tended and the cottage garden fully cultivated. However after Edward moved out, the gardens were left untended and became overgrown. Edward died in 1955, leaving the property to his son Lt Col Richard Edward Christopher Jennings DL MBE, who became High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1957. He had a new house built to his own design with the assistance of the architect Sir Martyn Beckett. This was erected at the southern end of the Georgian walled garden and incorporated the original belvedere. A swimming pool was also built in the walled garden. Around this time lead was removed from the roof of the old mansion which subsequently became ruinous, though the shell remains and the tower is intact. The out-buildings have survived and are still in use.

Lt Col Richard Edward Christopher Jennings, who amongst many other achievements had been editor of Motor Magazine, died in 1982 and his wife Margaret, who had been a famous racing driver having set a lap record at Brooklands in 1936 of 127mph and had devoted much time into replanting the walled garden, died in 1989. The couple left one son who unfortunately is not well enough to look after the property himself, this now having been entrusted to his uncle Capt Edwin Jennings and his wife Mary, whose aim is to preserve Gellideg's triple character as a home, a plantsman's garden and an historic site.

Site timeline

1820: Two storey country residence built by R T Dixie with 0.4ha walled garden with belvedere, pond, pleasure ground with ha-ha and stables.

1852: Larger Italianate Mansion designed by William Wesley Jenkins built for Richard Jennings incorporating the old house and including a conservatory.

Before 1871: New farmhouse, cart shed built near stables and cottage south-east of walled garden.

1880 to 1927: Mansion extended and a new conservatory added.

1946 to 1959: Mansion abandoned - roof removed.

1961 to 1962: New house built at southern end of walled garden incorporating belvedere.

1962 to 1998: New planting by Margaret Jennings supported by Trevor Crosby formerly of Leeds University.

1990 to 2014: Ongoing restoration by Edwin and Mary Jennings.

Features

planting

Victorian cottage garden with mid- to late-20th century plantings.

pond

Late Georgian pond.

building

Feature created: 1960 to 1969

Country house incorporating late Georgian belvedere.

belvedere

kitchen garden

Late Georgian walled garden with mid- to late-20th century plantings.

stable block

Late Georgian stable block still in use.

Plantings

From the mid 1960s Margaret Jennings gardened here, for some years with the help of Trevor Crosby, former Curator of the Leeds University Botanic Garden. Trevor was followed later by Marian Lewis of Kidwelly and now by Amanda Lewis. The present custodians are trying to preserve Gellidêg’s triple character as a home, a plantsman’s garden and an historic site.
Between them, Margaret Jennings, Trevor and Marian planted a wealth of trees and shrubs, now mature. Rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias and pieris are followed in June by the scarlet flowers of Chilean firebush (Embothrium coccineum). Other plants of interest are Crinodendron hookerianum, Skimmia x media ‘Kew Green’ and pagoda bush (Enkianthus campanulatus). Hydrangeas and roses (among them the rare ‘Leo’s Eye’, a rambler discovered at Picton Court) then maintain colour into autumn.
In more detail, Rhododendrons species include R. Arboreum; R. Augustinii; R. Bureavii; R. Campanulatum; R. Falconeri; R. Maddenii ; R. SinoFalconeri; R. Thomsonii; R. Williamsianum; and R. Yunnanense. Azalea species include R. Luteum; and A. Aida.
The Magnolias include M. Sieboldii; M. Stellata; and M. Wilsonii. And Hydrangeas include H. Querci Folia; H. Petiolaris and H. Macrophylla.

Planted: After 1960