National Botanic Garden of Wales (also known as Middleton Hall)2285

Carmarthenshire, Wales

Brief Description

Middleton Hall is now home to the National Botanical Garden of Wales. The site has a 1790s landscape park in fine rolling countryside, the main feature of which is a string of lakes.

History

The parkland was originally laid out in the 1790s for Sir William Paxton, with advice from Samuel Lapidge. The mansion, stables and adjoining folly tower (Paxton's Tower) were by Samuel Pepys Cockerell, After the house and grounds fell into disrepair it was redeveloped as a Millenium Project as the National Botanic Garden of Wales and opened to the public in 2000.

Visitor Facilities

This is the site of the National Botanic Garden of Wales, and is open daily with the exception of Christmas Day. See: http://www.gardenofwales.org.uk/visitors-info/opening-times/

Detailed Description

The site has a 1790s landscape park in fine rolling countryside, the main feature of which is a string of lakes. Paxton was possibly advised by Samuel Lapidge, and the work was supervised by the agent James Grier.

The triangular Paxton's Tower (1808-15) by S.P. Cockerell is an outlier of the park on a ridge to the north-east. There is also a double-walled kitchen garden and an icehouse. The lakes were drained in the 1930s.

Most of the central area was developed as the National Botanic Garden for Wales in 2000, incorporating surviving older structures. Most of the lakes were restored. New fountains and sculptures are by contemporary artists. A broad walk flanked by rock specimens representing the full chronology of geological time in Wales leads up towards the old stables and the Great Glasshouse by Norman Foster and Partners which covers a large-scale arid landscape and rock garden by Kathryn Gustaffson. Most recently, a tropical House by John Belle, devoted mainly to monocotyledononous plants, has been built at one side of the walled garden. The new hard landscaping within the walled garden utilises four different styles and materials of pathway in the four quarters. Three quarters are devoted to plantings representing the evolutionary affinities of plants, and the fourth is a series of allotments gardened by local schools.

Features
  • Mansion House (featured building)
  • Description: The house was destroyed by fire in November 1931 and subsequently demolished. Stables and servants' quarters survived in a degraded state and have been recently refurbished for new uses.
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  • Stable Block
  • Description: The stables are now used as a visitor centre and restaurant.
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  • Drive
  • Description: There were originally four drives.
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  • Lake
  • Description: A string of seven lakes formed a central feature of the park.
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  • Ornamental Bridge
  • Description: This modern bridge with stone piers and iron railings replaces a fine single span stone bridge which formerly spanned the second lake South lake, or Llyn Uchaf as it now known.
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  • Tropical House
  • Description: A tropical house by John Belle has been constructed in the double walled garden.
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  • Cascade
  • Description: There is a stepped cascade taking water from Pond Ddu to rejoin the Afon Gwynon. The three steps decrease in height from bottom to top. This is a part of the historic waterworks.
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  • Pool
  • Description: Circular plunge pool on the north east bank of the most northerly of the chain of lakes. This was shown on Thomas Hornor's plan and described in 1824 as a grotto and chalybeate spring.
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  • Glasshouse
  • Description: The Great Glasshouse is by Norman Foster Associates. It is a circular structure rather resembling an insect eye. It is the largest single span glass building in the world.
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: The kitchen garden is unusual in being of a double walled design with additional growing space in the 9 metre band between the inner and outer walls. The outer walls are predominantly of stone, and the inner ones of brick, stuccoed in part. There was formerly an extensive range of glasshouses against the south-east facing inner wall, part of which is interpreted as a polite area where the ladies perhaps sewed.
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  • Icehouse
  • Description: Set into the bank to the south-west of the walled garden is the entrance to a well-preserved icehouse, with domed and brick-lined chamber and barrel-vaulted approach passage. It was mentioned in sale particulars of 1824.
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Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

This is the site of the National Botanic Garden of Wales, and is open daily with the exception of Christmas Day. See: http://www.gardenofwales.org.uk/visitors-info/opening-times/

Directions

The site is off the M4, from where it is signposted.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Llanarthney
History

Detailed History

The house was designed by Samuel Pepys Cockerell in 1793-5 for Sir William Paxton, who had been master of the Mint in Bengal. The extensive rolling landscape was embellished with a chain of lakes which ran west and south of the house and incorporated a stepped cascade, bridge and dam. The appearance of the lakes is recorded in the paintings by Thomas Hornor executed for the proud owner in 1815.

The mansion was extended in the late-1820s by its next owner, Edward Hamlyn Adams, a Jamaica merchant. The family restyled their house Abadam and owned it until the early-20th century. After the mansion was destroyed by fire in 1931 the estate was divided into starter farms owned by Carmarthenshire County Council.

Its renaissance as the National Botanic Garden of Wales began in 1996 as a result of the influence of William Wilkins, founder of the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust, who secured Millenium Commission funding for the project.

Period

  • Late 18th Century
  • 18th Century
Associated People
Contact

Telephone

01443 336000

Official Website

Click Here

Other websites

Owners

  • National Botanic Garden for Wales

    Llanarthne, SA32 8HG
References

References

Contributors

  • Caroline Palmer