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Leighton Hall, Cilcewydd 2045

Short Description

Leighton Hall is a grand mid-19th-century house situated on the east side of the valley of the river Severn. The contemporary garden was designed by Edward Kemp. The estate was run as a model farm and has an exceptional collection of Victorian agricultural buildings. There are woodlands of high arboricultural interest, especially the Charles Ackers Grove and Naylor pinetum. The Leyland cypress was bred here in the late-19th century from seedlings found on the estate.

  • Statue
  • Description: Statue of Icarus (presently removed from the site).
  • Garden Building
  • Description: Poultry house
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The Victorian building replaced a mid-16th-century house. It has an out-sized octagonal tower in a picturesque gothic style.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Grove
  • Description: The Charles Ackers Grove and Naylor pinetum.


Christopher Leyland bought the estate in 1845 and presented it to his nephew, John Naylor, as a wedding present along with a reputed £100,000. Naylor built the house, constructed the gardens and developed an agricultural estate, which at its largest extent covered about 4,000 acres (about 1,620 hectares). The estate was broken up in stages from 1908 to 1931 and was bought by a private owner in the early-1990s.

Detailed History

A deer park was created at some time between the mid-16th and mid-17th centuries. In the mid-19th century John Naylor retained part of this park, filling it with pale fallow deer. The deer park is thought to have been lost following the sales in 1931.

William Kemp's formal gardens around the house were in a style that he referred to as 'architectual gardening' in his book How to lay out a garden etc.'. They consisted of two main areas - a terraced garden with an octagonal pool, and a flower garden (the Library Garden) on two levels enclosed by a high wall. Both gardens featured statuary, fountains and other ornaments and had geometric beds planted with seasonal bedding. Most of the statuary was removed in the various 20th-century sales. Little of the original formal gardens remains, although the basic layout survives.

The gardens and pleasure grounds were ornamented with buildings such as summerhouses and a camellia house and there were areas of evergreen shrubberies with winding walks through them. A more informal area included a serpentine pond with a statue of Icarus in it.

The development of the estate at Leighton Hall coincided with the Victorian conifer craze, when seedlings of conifers were being transported to the UK from the United States and elsewhere. John Naylor bought coast redwood seedlings from California (Sequoia sempervirens) and planted up a grove of 33 of them in about 1857. Sir Charles Ackers added further redwood plantings in about 1935. The resulting pinetum covers about 12 hectares and includes many other specimen conifers, some dating back to the 19th-century phase of planting by John Naylor. Examples include pines, firs, spruce, hemlock and cedars.

In 1888 a chance seedling of two conifers was found growing on the estate. This was a cross between two different species of conifer, the Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) and the Nootka cypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis). These two species would not grow together in the wild, but were planted together in Naylor's woodland. The resulting cross - the Leyland cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandi) - became a popular hedging plant due to its fast growth rate but has since become a scourge of many neighbourhoods by growing too tall and causing boundary disputes. The original Leyland cypress blew down in 1954.


  • Victorian (1837-1901)
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