Llanforda Hall (also known as Llanvorda Hall)5733

Oswestry, England, Shropshire

Brief Description

Llanforda Hall's gardens were some of the most original, fashionable, and remarkable in 17th-century Shropshire. The large early-19th-century park is well-preserved, but the gardens are largely destroyed. Traces of the late-18th-century stables survive, with the part-ruined walled gardens and a boating lake or reservoir on the hill above. A number of fish ponds dating from the 17th century Lloyd ownership have also survived. The house was demolished in the 1940s.

History

The family of Lloyd lived at Llanforda from the early-16th century. In 1634 Edward Lloyd began to develop the gardens and under his direction and that of his son they eventually became some of the finest in the county. Some work was carried out by the eminent botanist and gardener Edward Morgan, and Edward Lhuyd FRS was associated with the estate during this period. A change of ownership brought the the estate into the hands of the Williams family of Glascoed whose connection with the Wynns of Wynnstay and the Vaughns of Montgomery eventually brought Llanforda into one of the largest concentrations of land ownership in North Wales. The 1st Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn was born at Llanforda Hall. He changed the family name in honour of his descent from the Wynns of Gwydir. His son the 2nd Sir Watkin demolished the Lloyd residence and about 1780 began to build a large house which was burnt down before completion. The ruins were incorporated into a smaller mansion built by a younger brother of the 3rd Sir Watkin in 1813. The latter was demolished in 1949. The 18th-century stables survived for a time but have subsequently been destroyed.

Detailed Description

In the 1640s, Llanforda Hall's gardens were extensive, featuring walks, a wilderness, and a fountain, and they probably rivalled anything in the county for elaboration at that time. In the 1650s to 1670s, Edward Lloyd's son kept up the improvement at the gardens, purchasing seeds for cucumber, melon, asparagus, cauliflower, and artichoke from the most well-known suppliers in London, such as Edward Fuller. There is some evidence that Llanforda's kitchen and fruit gardens were operating as a market garden at this time. In the later 1670s, Lloyd, Jr worked on improving the pleasure grounds and physic garden. He spoke fondly of the snowdrops growing in the wilderness, and his garden ornaments were elaborately detailed--a plant pot was adorned with his motto and painted in gold. He also worked to expand the fishing industry in the area, and he may have been breeding freshwater fish at the Llanforda estate, necessitating the twenty or so fishponds in the grounds.

In 1679-80, the gardener Edward Morgan came to Llanforda with several students and began botanical experiments, including measuring and comparing the growth rates of plants in Shropshire and London. Even further improvement of the garden plantings was undertaken at this time. This high level of gardening activity undoubtedly contributed further to the financial troubles of the Lloyd family, and may have precipitated the eventual sale of the estate in the 1680s.

The following material was contributed by Dr. Robert Tinsley:

In 1851 Bagshaw described Llanforda Hall in the following terms: "A handsome mansion delightfully situated on a gentle acclivity commanding picturesque views over a luxuriant country of great beauty. The park is spacious and studded with thriving plantations" (Bagshaw, S., History, gazetteer and directory of Shropshire comprising a general survey of the county etc, (Sheffield 1851:p191)).

Although the house has been destroyed, the park, which extends to the east and west for about a mile in either direction, is well preserved and to that extent Bagshaw's description is still valid. Traces of the late-18th-century stables survive, with the part-ruined walled gardens and a former boating lake and reservoir on the hill above. Little now remains of the extensive gardening activities of the Lloyd family, although Stamper notes that "in the surrounding fields is other evidence of the Lloyds remarkable 17th century enterprise [the younger Edward] was breeding freshwater fish and that is the explanation for the twenty or so fishponds, now mostly dry, in the vicinity of the former house" (Stamper, Paul, Historic parks and gardens of Shropshire. Shropshire Books (Shropshire County Council 1996:pp13-14)). Stamper suggests that the walled gardens are of 17th century origin although others give a mid-18th-century date (Discovering Shropshire's History (www.discovershropshire.org.uk/... accessed on the 10th December 2011)).

Features
  • Country House (featured building)
  • Description: Llanforda Hall is now lost, having been demolished in 1949.
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  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: There was a walled kitchen garden at Llanforda, of which the walls still partially survive.
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  • Fishpond
  • Description: There are over 20 fishponds in the grounds at Llanforda, now mostly dry.
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  • Stable Block
  • Description: Only the lower walls now survive.
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Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Oswestry
History

Detailed History

The following material was contributed by Dr. Robert Tinsley:

The family of Lloyd lived at Llanforda from at least the early-16th century (Leighton Stanley, 1901, Shropshire Houses Past and Present, George Bell & sons London. p23). In the early-17th century the Lloyds maintained a highly fashionable garden there. Edward Lloyd, who inherited in 1634 at the age of 25, developed a garden which in 1645 included walks, a wilderness, and fountains. The debt-burdened estate was then inherited by his son Edward. Despite his chronic financial troubles, the younger Edward Lloyd further developed the gardens, and by 1680 the they included the Tulip Garden, Pigeonhouse Garden, Parlor Garden, Wilderness, Lower Garden, Nursery, Physick Gardens and Fruit Garden, as well as some 20 fishponds. The garden staff at that time included a negro, Samson, who worked under Edward Morgan, a previous superintendent of the Westminster Physick Garden. Under Morgan a good deal of horticultural experimentation was undertaken at Llanforda (Lloyd, Edward, Letterbooks 1874-81 vol 3-7. National Library of Wales MSS, Sweeney Hall 3-7 cited by Roberts Brynley F.,1980, Edward Lhuyd, The making of a scientist - The G.J. Williams Memorial Lecture Cardiff, 1979 (Univ Wales Press 1980, ISBN 0708309477:p4)).

The pioneering botanist antiquary, philologist, botanist and scientist Edward Lhuyd FRS was associated with the house at this period. Lhuyd was the natural son of the younger Edward Lloyd and appears to have gained his initial interest in plants and his introduction to "experimental scientific method" at Llanforda (Roberts, Brynley F., op. cit:4). He lived there for some years and may have been one of Morgan's pupils (Williams Derek R.,2009, Edward Lhuyd; 1660-1709: A Shropshire Welshman, (Oswestry & district Civic Society 2009:p4)). Lhuyd scoured Wales and the West Country for rare plants for use in the medicines of the time and some species that grow in Candy Lane bordering the property were, according to local tradition, originally introduced by him (Williams, Derek op. cit.:p5).

Edward Lloyd, whose financial troubles had continued, sold the property to his cousin William Williams in a series of transactions which are recorded in detail in Lloyd's surviving letterbooks (Lloyd, Edward, Letterbooks op. cit. vol 7). Famously, Lloyd appealed to his friends to save him "from the jaws of the Leviathan of the Glascott". Williams was speaker of the House of Commons in 1679-1680, was created a baronet and became Solicitor General after the accession of James II (Paul D. Halliday, Sir William Williams, 1st Baronet (1634-1700) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, OUP 2004: vol 59: pp317-21). He also acquired the nearby Lloyd property of Llynymaen (Leighton Stanley (Sweeney), Sketches of Shropshire Houses, [original sketches with typescript notes individually dated c1880-90, bound volumes] Shropshire Archive mss 1119 Volume 4).

Lloyd appears to have retained a life interest in the house and garden but after his death in 1781, William's son (also William) lived at Llanforda (Wynne W.W.E. in Miscallanea Genealogica et Heraldica, J.J. Howard, Vol 1, New Series 1874: p181). He married Jane Thelwall, heiress to the Wynnstay estates of Denbighshire, thereby founding the Williams-Wynn dynasty. Williams' second son Watkin was born at Lanforda (St Oswald Parish Records Feb 1692/3. Shropshire Archives mss ref:P214/194. [Watkin Williams was born on 19th Feb 1792/3]). He became 3rd Baronet in 1740 but earlier took the name of Williams Wynn in honour of his ancestors the Wynns of Gwydir whose Wynnstay estate at Ruabon he inherited in 1719. He was the first of four successive Sir Watkins. His marriage to Margaret, heiress to the Vaughn estates of Montgomery, brought further territories under his control. (Peter D. G. Thomas, Wynn, Sir Watkin Williams 3rd Baronet (1693?-1749) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, OUP 2004: vol 60: pp 687-9).

The Williams-Wynns were active in developing a number of coal mines in the nearby Morda valley (Thomas R.D, Industies of the Morda Valley; life and labour in the 19th Century, Woodall, Minshall, Thomas & Co Oswestry 1939:p10. [Originally published in the Border Counties Advertiser, reprinted 1978 by Shropshire Libraries, ref F20 v.f.]). They also owned the local coaching inn now known as the Wynnstay Hotel.The 2nd Sir Watkin (4th Baronet) demolished the old Lloyd residence and in 1780 started to build himself a large new house at Llanforda. Before completion it was destroyed by fire although the stables survived as evidence of "the extent of the whole design if it had been carried out " (Leighton Stanley (Sweeney), Sketches of Shropshire Houses, [original sketches with typescript notes individually dated c1880-90, bound volumes] Shropshire Archive mss 1119 Volume 4). The ruins were converted into a farmhouse (Leighton Stanley, 1901, Shropshire Houses Past and Present, George Bell & sons London. p23).

In 1813, a younger brother of the 3rd Sir Watkin, Henry Williams-Wynn (later Sir Henry) reconstructed Llanforda Hall as a modest mansion and relaid the grounds (Leighton Stanley, 1901, Shropshire Houses Past and Present, George Bell & sons London. p23). It is generally assumed that the present park dates from this period (Stamper 1993, A survey of historic Parks and Gardens in Shropshire, Report No 41, Shropshire County Council Leisure Services Dept 1993, p141) although its ambitious scale suggests the possibility of its survival from the 1780 project. Henry was in the diplomatic service and often abroad and from at least as early as 1838 the house was let (Tythe Commission; Tythe Apportionments 1838, National Archives MSS, IR29 volume 199:p12 [these records show that Peter Heywood Esq was occupier of "Llanforda Mansion, part of the buildings yard & shrubberies". Heywood was still in residence in 1851] (Bagshaw 1851:p191 op cit.)).

At the end of World War 2 its condition and location seem to have made the house impossible to let and in 1948 the building was sold for demolition (Border Counties Advertiser 6/10/48 [Sale by the trustees of the Wynnstay Settled Estates on Oct 20th at the Memorial Hall, Oswestry). It is significant that Wynnstay Hall itself was sold to a school in the same year (Archives Wales (www.archiveswales.org.uk), National Library of Wales: Wynnstay Estate Records. Context ref GB 0210 Wynnstay. (accessed 21.12.11)). The distinctive 1780 stables survived for some years longer.

Associated People

People associated to Llanforda Hall

References

References

Contributors

  • Dr. Rob Tinsley

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