Summary

This site is NOT open to public.

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Brief description of site

The site contains the ruins of a mid Victorian Italianate mansion. However this structure was built around an existing late Georgian house and its associated grounds which included a lodge, a walled garden with belvedere, a pond, stable block, flower gardens, pleasure gardens and parkland. The Victorian flower gardens associated with the mansion have not survived as such but the surrounding area has been replanted over the last fifty years with one of the best collections in the county of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and magnolias. The original Georgian lodge together with the stable block, pond and the walled garden with its belvedere have survived.

The site is NOT NORMALLY OPEN to the public. However, tours can be available on application by contacting Captain & Mrs E C Atkinson on 091267 267 751.

Brief history of site

In 1820 a farm on this site was purchased by Richard Thomas Dixie who built a modest two storey country house with a domestic wing. In 1849 the estate was purchased by Richard Jennings. In 1852 he commissioned the architect William Wesley Jenkins to build a larger mansion around the existing structure. 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 mansion later became ruinous, though the shell remains and the tower is intact. Replanting has since taken place in the walled garden.

Location information:

Address: Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire, SA17 4NA

Locality: Llandyfaelog

Local Authorities:

Carmarthenshire; Llandyfaelog; St. Ishmael

Historical County: Carmarthenshire

OS Landranger Map Sheet Number: 159 Grid Ref: SN423105
Latitude: 51.7709 Longitude: -4.28697

Key information:

Form of site: garden

Purpose of site: ornamental garden

Context or principal building: country house

Plant type/environment: walled garden

Main period of development: Early 19th century

Survival: Part: standing remains

Site Size (Hectares): 4.5

Description

Gellideg house and gardens are located at an elevation of about 94mOD some 60m above the floor of the Gwendreath fach valley, being a little more than 1km south of Llandyfaelog village and about 4km north of the town of Kidwelly in the county of Carmarthenshire. The location commands extensive views over farmland and on toward Carmarthen Bay and the distant hills of the Gower peninsula.

Within the curtilage of the property are the ruins of a mid-Victorian Italianate mansion. However this structure was built around an existing late-Georgian house and its associated grounds which included a lodge, a walled garden with belvedere, a pond, stable block, flower gardens, pleasure gardens and parkland. The Victorian flower gardens associated with the mansion have not survived as such but the surrounding area has been replanted over the last fifty years with one of the best collections in the county of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and magnolias. The original Georgian lodge together with the stable block, pond and the walled garden with its belvedere have survived.

At the southern end of the walled garden there now stands a 1960s country house which incorporates the original belvedere. The remains of the walled garden, formerly the kitchen garden for the old house, now include lawns, rose walk, flower beds, shrubs and trees. A 1960s swimming pool in this area is now a water feature with lilies. Immediately to the east of the present house is a cottage with a large garden which also contains similar plantings to those laid down in the walled garden.

The gardens are split into three separate areas:

The Walled Garden is split into four quarters, traditional cross-paths and central dipping pond or well at the centre. Like others, this was probably a kitchen garden to begin with but became decorative gardens over time. The masterpiece at Gellideg was to place the octagonal belvedere or gazebo on the south-west corner, commanding splendid views over the valley of the Gwendraeth Fach down to Carmarthen Bay and the Gower.

The old garden around the ruined Mansion no longer survives.

The Cottage garden, adjacent the modern house, was developed by Trevor Cosby and largely contains duplicates of the best shrubs and plants in the other areas. 

Restoration of the site by the present generation is an ongoing process.

Principal building:

mansion house Created After 1820

Ruined Italianate Mansion designed by William Wesley Jenkins built around a late Georgian house (1852).

Environment

Terrain: Hills on the east side of the Gwendraeth Fach Valley.

Underlying geology: Devonian Old Red Sandstone.

History

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

References

Organisations associated with this site

Welsh Historic Gardens Trust

Sources of information

'The Dixies of Bosworth – and Carmarthenshire'

J. D. Davies 'The Dixies of Bosworth – and Carmarthenshire' (Carmarthenshire Antiquary, 2009) 46-53

Images

  • Gellidêg Mansion, 1830 survey

    Gellidêg Mansion, 1830 survey

  • Gellidêg Mansion, history and modern usage

    Gellidêg Mansion, history and modern usage

  • Gellidêg Mansion, sketch of the walled garden

    Gellidêg Mansion, sketch of the walled garden

  • Gellidêg Mansion, south elevation

    Gellidêg Mansion, south elevation

  • Gellidêg Mansion, the stable block

    Gellidêg Mansion, the stable block

  • Gellidêg Mansion, lily pond

    Gellidêg Mansion, lily pond

  • Gellidêg Mansion, the well

    Gellidêg Mansion, the well

  • Gellidêg Mansion, inside the walled garden

    Gellidêg Mansion, inside the walled garden

  • Gellidêg Mansion, inside the ruined house

    Gellidêg Mansion, inside the ruined house

  • Gellidêg Mansion, the pond

    Gellidêg Mansion, the pond

  • Gellidêg Mansion, balustrade

    Gellidêg Mansion, balustrade

  • Gellidêg Mansion, campanile tower

    Gellidêg Mansion, campanile tower

  • Gellidêg Mansion, aerial photograph from 1946

    Gellidêg Mansion, aerial photograph from 1946

  • Gellidêg Mansion, aerial photograph from 1954

    Gellidêg Mansion, aerial photograph from 1954